Police take legal action against more than 180 people so far during 2019/2020 bushfire season

The NSW Police Force has taken legal action against more than 180 people for bushfire-related offences since late last year.

Numerous bush and grass fires have impacted the state, claiming the lives of 18 people and destroying hundreds of millions of animals and livestock, thousands of homes, and more than 4.9 million hectares of land, so far this bushfire season.

Since Friday 8 November 2019, legal action – which ranges from cautions through to criminal charges – has been taken against 183 people – including 40 juveniles – for 205 bushfire-related offences.

Of note:

  • 24 people have been charged over alleged deliberately-lit bushfires
  • 53 people have had legal actions for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban, and
  • 47 people have had legal actions for allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land.

Strike Force Tronto, comprised of detectives from the Financial Crimes Squad’s Arson Unit, has been working closely with individual police area commands and police districts to provide specialist assistance and advice to police on the ground.

Investigations into the cause, origin and overall impact of fires are continuing and since the latest State of Emergency was declared last Thursday (2 January 2020), Strike Force Tronto has provided expertise to six Police Area Commands and eight Police Districts.

As inquiries continue, police are appealing to the community to provide footage and/or images from phones, dashcam, or other devices, that show any of the fires in their infancy, even if only from a distance.

Vision of images can be provided to local police stations or uploaded through Crime Stoppers online.

Penalties relating to bushfires under the NSW Crimes Act, the Rural Fires Act, and Rural Fires Regulation include:

– Damaging property with the intention of endangering life – up to 25 years imprisonment;

– Manslaughter – up to 25 years imprisonment;

– Starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread – up to 21 years imprisonment;

– Lighting a fire when a total fire ban is in place – up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine;

– Not putting out a fire that you have lit – up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine;

– Failing to comply with a bush fire hazard reduction notice – up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine;

– Light or use a tobacco product within 15metres of any stack of grain, hay corn, straw or any standing crop, dry grass or stubble field – up to a $5500 fine.

For more information on bushfires, monitor www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or call the Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.

Strike Force Tronto is the lead investigative body on suspicious or deliberately-lit bushfires which lead to death, serious injury or significant property loss.

Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Tronto investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.

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