News

Man to be sentenced after lighting two bushfires in Shepparton

By Liz Mellino

A court has heard a man intentionally lit two bushfires near the Goulburn River in Shepparton following arguments with his brother.

Adrian Bux, 45, faced Melbourne's County Court on Thursday where he pleaded guilty to two charges of intentionally causing a bushfire in March 2018 and January this year, which occurred while he was homeless and living at a campsite on the banks of the river.

Crown Prosecutor Vivienne Jones told the court Bux and his brother were smoking cannabis on the night of March 10, 2018 at his brother's campsite beside the Goulburn River.

During the night Bux accused his brother of using his bong, with an argument breaking out between the pair before Bux left the site.

The court heard Bux returned about 2 am, with his brother observing him circling around the back of the campsite before "witnessing a large explosion of fire" next to where he had been walking.

CFA units and police attended the scene, with a water-bombing helicopter used to bring the fire under control.

The court heard a patch of bushland measuring 300 to 450 sq m was burned during the blaze, with a police forensic officer determining the probable source was a match or cigarette lighter.

“Mr Bux could not be located (by police) over the following months but remained flagged as required for interview in relation to the incident,” Ms Jones said.

The court heard Bux lit a second fire in bushland beside the Goulburn River on January 2 this year, following another argument with his brother.

Ms Jones said Bux, who was alcohol-affected at the time, walked up the river embankment into some long grass about 50 m south of the campsite.

“(A witness) saw flames erupt from where Mr Bux was standing. He then saw Mr Bux walk away from the site, laughing as he went back towards the town,” she said.

CFA attended and brought the fire under control, with about 150 sq m of bushland burned during the blaze.

The court heard Bux was on bail at the time of the second fire for charges of possessing methylamphetamine, using amphetamine, stating a false name and address and failing to wear a bicycle helmet.

Bux was arrested and interviewed by police on January 2 where he made full admissions to both of the fires.

“He acknowledged that, had the fire spread, other campers could have been hurt and the town could have been in danger,” Ms Jones said.

“He acknowledged that his actions were wrong.”

In his written submissions, Bux's lawyer David Swan said his client was an indigenous man who suffered hardship throughout his childhood.

He noted a neuropsychologist had identified a "strong possibility" of foetal alcohol syndrome spectrum disorder along with a mild intellectual disability.

Mr Swan said the subject of the offending on both occasions related to conflict between Bux and his older brother, addressing the "complexities" of that relationship following their father's death.

He said Mr Bux had a confirmed diagnosis of alcohol and cannabis use disorders, which he said were "in remission" while in custody.

Mr Swan said Bux had also been assessed as having poor impulse control, decision making skills and emotional regulation.

“Each of the offences lacked premeditation or sophistication, were not proximate to any commercial or residential buildings and both burnt only limited areas of vegetation,” he said in his written submissions.

“It is noted that Mr Bux made full admissions to police when interviewed ... it is further submitted that his plea is indicative of remorse.”

Mr Swan said while Bux had a "lengthy" criminal history, there were no prior convictions for arson-related offending.

Bux has already spent 175 days in pre-sentence detention.

He will be sentenced at a later date.