Jail sentence for arsonist

April 11, 2018

An intellectually disabled woman who started 14 bushfires at Mooroopna and Tatura, threatening farms and putting strain on firefighters, has been jailed for three months.

Julie Thumpston, 53, started each fire in dry vegetation beside roads during 11 months up to January 2015.

The blazes were relatively small but could have turned out much worse if not for the efforts of firefighters, the court heard.

‘‘There was a substantial risk that any of the fires could’ve spread and caused serious damage,’’ County Court judge Geoffrey Chettle said at sentencing yesterday.

Mooroopna and Tatura volunteer firefighters battled to bring each fire under control.

‘‘Members of the brigades suffered sleep disturbance and increased fatigue, which in turn impacted upon their families,’’ Judge Chettle said.

‘‘Both brigades were busy units and your crimes imposed additional difficulties.’’

Thumpston was seen at the scene of some fires, while a tracking device fitted to her car also helped police build their case.

Some of the arson attacks were motivated by a dispute Thumpston had with a farm manager’s son in 2013, the judge said.

‘‘But I do not accept that all of your offending was so motivated,’’ Judge Chettle said.

Thumpston pleaded guilty to multiple counts of intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire.

She was sentenced to 88 days in jail, which she has already served during pre-sentence detention.

Thumpston must also serve a four-year community corrections order and complete 300 hours of volunteer work.

‘‘You need to understand that if you light any more fires you will go back to jail,’’ Judge Chettle said.

A medical assessment of Thumpston found her to have a mild intellectual disability and an IQ of 67.

The judge found this mental impairment reduced her moral culpability.


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