Jail firebugs for life: mp - advertiser

ARSONISTS found guilty of deliberately lighting bushfires would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, under a push for tougher penalties to deter firebugs.

Waite independent MP Sam Duluk will introduce legislation into State Parliament next week to increase the maximum penalty for starting a bushfire from 20 years in jail to a life sentence. The announcement came as the CFS released footage of the Cherry Gardens bushfire from the day it erupted.

Authorities are continuing to investigate if the devastating blaze was deliberately lit. "We need to bring the penalties for intentionally causing a bushfire in line with general arson, which already carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment," Mr Duluk said yesterday.

Mr Duluk, whose electorate borders Cherry Gardens, also plans to introduce amendments that will make it mandatory for anyone found guilty of lighting a bushfire to pay compensation for any injury, loss or damage caused by the blaze. "The physical and emotional cost associated with bushfires are an immense burden for both the local communities and the State Government," he said. "We need the law to reflect this and ensure firebugs who put life and property at risk are responsible for the full consequences of their actions."

Opposition spokesman Lee Odenwalder said Labor increased the maximum jail term for lighting a bushfire to 20 years when it was in government. He was concerned a conviction rarely led to a "maximum penalty or even substantial punishment". Mr Odenwalder said the opposition was yet to see Mr Duluk's proposal, but would give it "careful consideration". "Labor fully supports cracking down on arsonists," he said. "It is a vicious crime and its severity needs to be recognised by everyone, including the courts."

The footage of the Cherry Gardens blaze, taken by volunteers in helicopters, was yesterday released by the CFS. CFS incident controller Scott Turner said the cameras would continue to be used for weeks to come, as crews monitored hot spots. He said the primary focus for more than 100 CFS volunteers on the fire grounds over the next four days was monitoring its 28km perimeter.

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