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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Bushfire arsonist receives suspended sentence after guilty plea

A Territory man who pleaded guilty in the NT Supreme Court to illegally starting a fire at Djukbinj National Park two years ago has received a six-month suspended sentence.

The sentence handed to James Armstrong in the Supreme Court equals that of his co-accused, Thomas Nicholas Harvey Sticpewich, who received his sentence in the Darwin Local Court earlier this year after also pleading guilty to the same offence.

Bushfires NT executive director, Collene Bremner, welcomed the sentences imposed on the men, saying it should serve as a warning to others that incidents will be investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.

“I thank Justice John Burns for thoroughly considering the evidence brought before him and sentencing Armstrong earlier today,” Ms Bremner said.

“I also thank the Northern Territory Police who led the investigation into the illegally lit fires that led to Armstrong and Sticpewich being charged for offences under the Bushfires Management Act 2016.

“The fire was deliberately lit during a fire danger period, placing our staff, volunteers and environment at risk of harm and diverting resources away from other emergencies.

“The resulting wildfire burned for 11 days, burning a total of 166 square kilometres, including 2,300 hectares of pasture on an adjoining pastoral station, with several nearby landholders also having to divert resources to fight the fire when it entered their land.”

Djukbinj National Park is a wetland of national significance 80km east of Darwin and protects a major breeding area for magpie geese, herons and egrets.

“Every year there are more than 100 deliberately lit fires across the Top End and today’s outcome is a reminder to the broader community that everyone has an obligation to comply with NT’s fire laws and suspicious matters brought to our attention will be investigated,” said Ms Bremner.

“Illegal burning places a significant strain on landowners, staff and volunteers who give their time to reduce the threat of wildfires to the community and the environment.

“As we head into the fire season in the Top End, anyone with information on illegal fires should contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 or Police on 131 444, so that they can be investigated and appropriate action taken to prevent harm to the environment.

“And if it is an emergency people should call 000.”

Earlier this month, Mr Armstrong was also convicted and fined in the Darwin Local Court after pleading guilty to a related firearms charge, resulting in his firearms being forfeited and his firearms licence suspended.

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