Arson is a complex and confusing area of law, there are a number of different offences.
1) The offence of simple arson is one of causing criminal damage by fire. The offence is always treated very seriously and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
2) Arson with being reckless to whether life is endangered. This offence is committed where one is reckless as to whether life is endangered. This aggravated offence will only be dealt with in the crown court and also carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Sentences have included 42 months for setting fire to a flat and 9 1/2 years for setting fires on an aircraft.
3) Arson with intent to endanger life. This offence is where one intends to endanger life by setting a fire. In cases where it is unclear clear whether there was intent or recklessness, it is likely that one will be charged with both offences as alternatives. Arson with intent also carries life imprisonment and can only be dealt with at the crown court.
How can a Solicitor Assist?
The law concerning arson is complex and you should always take legal advice before answering any questions from the police, and if charged, before you go to court. One would require the assistance of a criminal defence solicitor. At ULA Solicitors we are dedicated to providing clear advice to you in order to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome. This may be to advise at the police station which reduces the chances of you further incriminating yourself, or whether it be the advice of pleading guilty early in order to allow for a 25% reduction in sentence, or getting you an experienced barrister to ensure that you have the best chance if your matter was to proceed to trial. We will always listen to our client's instructions and act in accordance with these and their best interest.
As with other criminal law matters the government provides funding by way of legal aid. This is the same in the instance where the individual is charged in relation to an arson offence. Again, the individual would have to qualify for legal aid on two grounds. Firstly, their disposable income must be below a certain amount and secondly, it must be in the interests of justice that they be represented. With such offences, as they carry lengthy custodial sentences the individual would most definitely satisfy the latter criterion.