Section 203E Crimes Act | Causing Bushfire


Following a series of devastating bushfires which caused damage to property and homes, there has been an increased focus on the laws relating to the deliberate lighting of bushfires.

The offence of “causing bushfires” is contained in s 203E of the Crimes Act, which says that you may be charged with this offence if you deliberately cause a fire, and you are reckless as to whether that fire may spread to vegetation or public or private land.

However, you will not be charged with an offence under this section where you started the fire under the direction of a fire fighter, or as part of your employment as a fire fighter, or where you caused the fire in the course of “hazard reduction operations” – i.e. back burning.

Because of the serious consequences that may result from bushfires, the maximum penalty for this offence is 14 years imprisonment.

However, this penalty will only apply in the most serious cases.

Our experienced criminal defence team can assist you in avoiding harsh penalties under the law by presenting your case in a favourable light and raising any possible defences to the charges.

The Legislation

Section 203E of the Crimes Act 1900 deals with the offence of “causing bushfires” and reads as follows:

203E Bushfires

(1) A person:

(a) who intentionally causes a fire, and

(b) who is reckless as to the spread of the fire to vegetation on any public land or on land belonging to another,

is guilty of an offence. Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 14 years.

(2) For the purposes of this section, recklessness may also be established by proof of intention.

(3) A person is not criminally responsible for an offence against this section if:

(a) the person is a firefighter or acting under the direction of a firefighter, and

(b) the person caused the fire in the course of bushfire fighting or hazard reduction operations.

(4) If on the trial of a person for an offence against this section the jury is not satisfied that the accused is guilty of the offence charged but is satisfied on the evidence that the accused is guilty of an offence against section 100 (1) of the Rural Fires Act 1997, it may find the accused not guilty of the offence charged but guilty of the latter offence, and the accused is liable to punishment accordingly.

Why Sydney Criminal Lawyers?

Being accused of starting a bushfire can be a distressing and upsetting experience for you and your loved ones.

However, the team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers will assist you every step of the way when it comes to fighting the charges in court.

As criminal law specialists, our expert defence team has the knowledge and experience to secure a positive outcome in your case where you have been accused of starting a bushfire.

In many cases, we have been able to have charges dropped where there is insufficient evidence or problems with the prosecution case.

This means that our clients are often spared the time and expense of a lengthy and emotionally draining defended hearing or criminal trial.

Where your matter proceeds to court, our lawyers will fight hard to secure a positive outcome by raising all possible defences and deconstructing the prosecution case.

Our lawyers are skilled advocates who can present your side of the story in a compelling and persuasive manner to cast doubt on the prosecution case.

We can enlist the assistance of expert witnesses who can give evidence to support your case or establish that the fire was not deliberately lit.

Where you simply wish to accept the charges and plead guilty, our lawyers can prepare sentencing submissions which focus on positive factors and provide the court with reasons as to why you should receive a more lenient penalty.

Our lawyers are extremely well-versed in the preparation and delivery of sentencing submissions and our advocates’ excellence in this area of the law is often noted and applauded by magistrates and judges.

To get an excellent result in your criminal matter, you need an excellent criminal lawyer. Call us today on (02) 9261 8881 and find out how we can help you win your “causing bushfires” case.