Crusoe arson accused wins bail

A teenager who said he was imitating Black Saturday arsonists when he started a fire at Crusoe Reservoir on total fire ban day has been granted bail.

The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was released from police custody yesterday and placed under strict supervision guidelines.

The Victorian Children’s Court ruled the boy – who has an intellectual disability – must not leave his mother’s residence without accompaniment of his parents or child protection workers.

Police prosecutor Lindsay Riley raised concerns the boy did not have the capacity to understand the dangers of his urge to start fires.

The court heard he was “obsessed” with lighting a fire and had done so despite friends’ warnings that he could go to jail.

He told police he had imitated the behaviour of two boys who lit a fire on Black Saturday that claimed the life of a Bendigo man.

Magistrate Jennifer Tregent said lighting the fire was a severe offence but the boy’s age and his lack of prior convictions meant he could be released into the care of his parents.

“He is now in a position where he can easily return to custody – that will act as  strong deterrent,” she said. 

Ms Tregent called on the parents to recognise the seriousness of the ruling, after the court was told they had initially misled police on their son’s whereabouts when they went to arrest the boy.

Ms Tregent told the parents that if he was to commit another offence and they were to help him evade authorities, “it would be on your head”.

The boy is set to reappear before the children’s court for a review of his bail application on February 18.

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