Fire started to cover up a crime

A TEENAGER with limited empathy lit a fire that gutted a business causing $2.5 million in damage to avoid detection by the building's CCTV cameras.

Rhys Jeno Green, 18, and Robert John Everett, 18 had been drinking together and thought it would be a "good idea" to enter a premises.

Inside the Boomerang Secondhand store they walked around and noticed the CCTV cameras, which they tried to cover up. Then they both left.

However, Green later returned and lit a blaze on April 29 last year that took fire crews three and a half hours to contain and resulted in about $2.5 million in damage.

Crown prosecutor Clayton Wallace said Green had lit the fire in an attempt to avoid detection.

"He has to have known it was going to cause this type of damage," Mr Wallace said. "There has been a considerable impact."

Green, 19, pleaded guilty in the District Court in Mackay yesterday to one count each of arson and enter premises with intent and seven counts of wilful damage.

Everett, 20, also pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of enter premise with intent.

Mr Wallace said Boomerang Secondhand had not been covered by insurance and some damage had come about because the building had asbestos in it.

He said Green's motivation behind the fire was to avoid some sort of detection, but his actions were opportunistic and not thought out.

Defence barrister Scott McLennan said Green was a 19-year-old who functioned like a child.

He had "limited empathy and a poor perception of consequences" and was socially and emotionally immature, Mr McLennan said.

Green didn't expect the fire to spread as it did or cause that amount of damage, he said.

He co-operated with police and did the right thing by Everett in taking sole responsibility for the fire, Mr McLennan said.

Both Green and Everett had no criminal history prior to this offending.

Judge Julie Dick said the amount of damage had to be taken into consideration. "This was a really stupid night... to go there in the first place, but then to commit the arson to cover the crime," Judge Dick said.

Green had been in custody for five months, which was not declarable. However, Judge Dick took it into account. Green was convicted and jailed for three years to be released on parole on June 7 next year.

Everett was placed on 18 months' probation and no conviction was recorded.

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