A man was sent to prison for two years and six months for deliberately torching a house belonging to a Tannese family living in Teouma.
Pierre Esrah Noel was charged with one count of robbery, arson and obstructing a Police officer on duty.
They were lucky to be alive as their mother saw the defendant and fled with her children before the house was set on fire. All their belongings were reduced to ashes.
On March 6, 2019 Noel pleaded guilty to arson and entered not guilty pleas to the remaining charges.
A trial was conducted on these charges on June 3, 2019, Noel was found not guilty on the charge of robbery but guilty on the charge of obstructing a Police Officer.
The facts admitted before the court revealed that the sometimes before November 6, 2108 the defendant separated from his partner Mary Nanau.
Justice Dudley Aru said that the wife had to take the children to her sister’s house and her sister’s husband.
Justice Aru said that Nanau refused to speak to Noel when he went to visit her.
As a result on November 6, 2018 around 8pm the defendant went to the house where his wife was sleeping with the children and set it on fire.
The wife feared for her life and took her children and fled to a relative’s home but Noel took a fire stick and set fire to another house.
Nothing from the house was saved, even attempts were made by neighbours without success.
All the complainant’s belongings in the house were destroyed and the wife’s sister was the only one at home at that time with their six children who were aged between 6 to 14 years. When the defendant was arrested, he admitted the offending.
Noel also admitted that November 6, 2018 when the Police were called, he had left the scene of the fire.
When Noel saw the Police vehicle he escaped but was later located.
He had a knife with him and was told to put down the knife by the police.
Instead he ran towards a police officer with the knife in hand before the police wrestled him down by grabbing the defendant and tackling him to the ground before restraining him.
The pre-sentence report filed for court observation showed that Noel is 25 years old with no previous convictions.
He completed his education at class 4 and could not continue due to financial constraints. He earns his living from gardening and he had a good relationship with his family and community. He consumes alcohol and kava occasionally.
He is someone with a short temper and his chief told the probation officer that the defendant does not listen to advise when corrected.
The judge said that there is an element of planning involved that saw the house set on fire at night.
“The defendant had a weapon with him, a knife which he used to cut down food crops around the house,” the Judge said.
“The victim had six young children aged between five to 14 years who lived in the house and fled in fear of the defendant before their house was burnt to the ground with all their belongings and a sum of VT100,000.”
Justice Aru then adopted four years imprisonment as the starting point of the sentence.
In mitigating factors, the court recognized Noel as a first time offender and his family had performed a custom reconciliation on his behalf with the victim.
The sentencing equation of the court then fell to an end sentence of two years and six months to be served with immediate effect.
The sentence was then backdated to June 3, 2019 when Noel was first taken into custody.