A man has been jailed and ordered to pay $57,500 in damages after he set fire to two Wagga homes.
Steven Simon Buckland faced Wagga’s District Court on Thursday and was sentenced to seven years’ jail with a non-parole period of four years and six months.
Buckland had already pleaded guilty in Februrary this year to two intentional acts of arson dating back to 2016; the first in Mount Austin on July 13 and the second in Central on September 29.
The court heard the first incident saw Buckland break into a Warren Place home at about 8pm, smashing the laundry window before reaching in to unlock the door.
Once inside, Buckland set fire to the bedroom curtains and attempted to start a kitchen fire using an aerosol can as an accelerant on the stove top.
Buckland returned to the scene as firefighters attempted to extinguish the blaze, with one witness reportedly hearing him tell them to “f--k off and let it burn”.
The house had been recently refurbished and was vacant at the time of the fire; it later sold for just $97,000, well below its market value due to the damage caused in the blaze.
The second incident took place in Wagga’s Beckwith Street in the early hours of September 29, 2016.
Buckland used spray paint to damage a ute outside the house before entering and using the can as an accelerant to set fire to the lounge.
He then set fire to the curtains in one of the bedrooms as well as a pile of clothes in the laundry.
Two people were asleep in the house at the time; they woke up when their smoke alarms activated, and they managed to quickly extinguish the fires.
Police arrived at the scene shortly after 1am and found Buckland heavily intoxicated outside the premises.
In his sentencing remarks on Thursday, Judge Gordon Lerve said the second matter was made considerably worse by the fact Buckland knew there were people asleep in the house.
“The offender deliberately entered the residential premises knowing people were home with the specific intent to set fire to that dwelling,” Judge Lerve said.
“Three separate fires were lit in separate parts of the premises – the damage is limited more through good fortune than anything else.”
The court heard that a few months after these incidents Buckland was sent to jail by a Wollongong court for other arson offences.
Judge Lerve said it was “somewhat surprising” that a psychological report prepared on Buckland suggested there was nothing to indicate the offender was a pyromaniac, explaining that “his lighting fires to destroy property seem to be an expression of anger and frustration”.
He ordered Buckland to pay the owner of the Mount Austin home $57,500 in damages.
Buckland’s sentence was back-dated to May 20 this year, which means he will be eligible for parole on November 20, 2022.