A man has escaped a jail sentence for burning down a house built with local materials in Mele Maat.

Zepeta Noah Tari admitted one count of arson contrary to section 134 (1) of the Penal Code Act CAP 135.

Justice Dudley Aru sentenced Tari to an end sentence of 1 year and six months imprisonment wholly suspended for two years.

He also ordered him to undertake 100 hours community work.

He said that arson is a serious offence that warrants a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The law saysid ‘No person shall wilfully and unlawfully set fire to, or damage by means of any explosive, any building or other property whatsoever which to his knowledge belongs to another’.

He was convicted on September 4, 2018 after his admission to the Supreme Court.

Justice Aru said that on July 1, 2018 a formal complaint was made to the Police by the complainant against Tari for burning down her house on June 30, 2018.

At the time of the incident the complainant was looking after a neighbour’s house who went abroad. At around 1 to 2am that night of the incident, the victim heard the Tari calling her name but she did not respond and hid from him.

She recognised his voice and even saw his face when he was trying to break into the house.

The man accessed the house through the window and lit some matches to look inside the house.

“She later went outside and saw her house in flames,” he said.

“She saw the defendant jumping over the fence into another yard and his shirt got stuck in the fence and was ripped off.”

Justice Aru said that the victim then went to Mele Maat village and reported the matter to some people there and later met Tari and asked him why he burned down her house.

Tari swore at her.

All the victim’s and her son’s belongings were engulfed by the fire and these included important documents, kitchen utensils and many more.

The Judge said that the arson law prohibits anyone willfully and unlawfully setting fire to any building or property which they know belongs to someone else.

The judge said that in this case the defendant knew that the house belonged to the complainant and is where she lives instead, he proceeded to torch it down willfully.

Justice Aru said that there was an element of planning involved as the defendant called out the complainant’s name then broke the window in the neighbour’s house hoping to see if she was there but she was around watching him.

The Judge then adopted a starting point of 4 years.

He said that Tari is 30-years-old and is of mixed Vanuatu and New Caledonia parentage.

He lives in a de facto relationship with a divorcee but does not have children of his own and has adopted an 18-year-old boy.

The defendant left school at class 6 and has some carpentry skills obtained by working with various construction companies. He is a member of the NTM church. He told the Probation officer that he was sorry for what he did, however no custom reconciliation has been performed to the victim.

Tari admitted the offence at the earliest opportunity, he is a first time offender and cooperated with the police and he had shown some remorse.

“For the early guilty plea he is entitled to a one third discount which reduces the sentence to two years and six months imprisonment,” he said.

“As a first time offender and for cooperating with the Police, I deduct six months reducing the sentence to two years imprisonment.

“No deduction is made for the apology or remorse as it was not made directly to the victim and no custom reconciliation has been made with the victim.

“Six months is further deducted to reflect time spent remanded in custody.”

This left him with an end sentence of one year and six months suspended for two years.