Man jailed for burning Tongala house

In mid-2010 Christopher Abbott made a speech at his best friend’s 21st birthday party; five months later he burnt the same friend’s house to the ground.

Yesterday the Victorian County Court heard Abbott committed the arson in a jealous rage, angered by the relationship between his friend and former partner.

In November 2010, Abbott took a fuel container to his friend’s Tongala home, a large shed which included a “hut” and workshop.

He rammed open the door with his truck, then poured accelerant through the building and set it alight.

The shed and all of the victim’s possessions were destroyed.

Abbott later made full admissions to police saying he had wanted to cause his friend “as much pain and hurt as he caused me”.

Abbott was yesterday sentenced to 28 months’ jail, convicted on a series of charges including arson, criminal damage, intentionally causing injury and false imprisonment.

The charges of criminal damage, intentionally causing injury and false imprisonment relate to a separate assault of Abbott’s former partner. Two weeks before the arson, Abbott became angry with the woman – the mother of his three-year-old child – because of her involvement with his friend.

He dragged her into his car and held her against her will, assaulting her several times.

Judge Lance Pilgrim said Abbott’s conduct was “outrageous”.

“Your behaviour was appalling, disgraceful behaviour,” he said.

“Your life has unravelled, you have lost your parents, your child and your best friend all in two years.”

Judge Pilgrim read a victim impact statement from the male victim to the court.

“He is very angry and upset about the loss of his possessions,” he said.

“He writes: ‘These crimes have impacted my life a lot and, mentally, I will not be the same’”.

These comments appeared to amuse Abbott’s family seated in court, who immediately turned around to smile at the defendant in the dock.

Judge Pilgrim said he believed Abbott’s prospects of rehabilitation were good thanks to the support of his mother and partner, with whom he had reunited since the incident. He said Abbott was also free of drugs which had contributed to his offending.

But Judge Pilgrim said he also had to consider general deterrence.

He sentenced Abbott to a total of 28 months’ prison with a non-parole period of 20 months.

Abbott was also ordered to pay more than $162,000 in compensation.

The victim’s mother was present in court yesterday and said the decision offered some closure for her son.“He lost everything, now he can start getting his life back together,” she said.

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