The man responsible for what a judge called the “truly despicable act” of purposely lighting a bushfire at Cornishtown has been sent to jail for six months.
Jason McGrath, 27, of Corowa, showed no emotion in court on Friday as he was told of the sentence, which will also include a community correction order after he is released.
He will have to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and undergo treatment for alcohol issues.
Eight to 10 hectares of private land were burnt on December 1, 2017, when McGrath lit dried grass on the side of Chiltern-Rutherglen Road with a cigarette lighter.
It came after he had been drinking during the day and assaulted his partner by grabbing her throat during an argument.
Judge Richard Smith told Wodonga County Court he did not believe McGrath's story that he only meant to light a small fire he could stomp out himself.
“You would have well known that the area where you lit the fire was dry and it was windy … The fire burned quickly and out of control - you walked away, you did nothing to raise any alarm," he said.
“There would be few, if any, residents of any rural region in this state who are not fully aware of the dangers of fires and the real risks of disastrous damage to rural assets, to homes, to stock and to human life.”
He took into account that McGrath confessed in his police interview, showed remorse and had good prospects of rehabilitation.
A neuropsychologist's report also found he had borderline intellect and suffered mild depression, and moderate anxiety and stress.
“You had some anger issues during the time of your relationship with your former partner … Intoxication is no excuse for such conduct,” Judge Smith said.
“In regard to the assault, I note that it appears to be entirely unprovoked, it was probably contributed to by your consumption of alcohol. Violence by men towards women is regrettably a common and serious occurrence in our community.”
McGrath was also ordered to pay $2500 to the property owner to cover damage caused to fences in the fire.
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