Shepparton man bailed following alleged $250,000 arson

By Liz Mellino

A man has faced court after allegedly setting fire to a home in Olympic Ave, Shepparton, while three people were asleep inside, causing $250,000 worth of damage.

Liam Mitchell Brown, 23, from Shepparton, faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday where he was bailed over the alleged incident which left the single-storey home, belonging to the Department of Health and Human Services, needing to be demolished.

The court heard the occupants of the home were sleeping inside at the time of the fire, with a neighbour entering the property and pulling them to safety.

“(The accused) has shown a disregard to the value of human life — I can't understand how the accused would be a in position to set fire to the house knowing the occupants were asleep inside,” Detective Senior Constable Joshua Coombs told the court.

The court heard Mr Brown and a co-accused allegedly attended the address in Olympic Ave just before 8 am on Sunday, July 5.

Det Sen Constable Coombs alleges Mr Brown was in possession of a butane torch when he and the co-accused gained entry to the home via the front door.

“The accused and co-accused attended various rooms utilising available material to start a fire,” he said.

The court heard a video camera recording captured Mr Brown and the co-accused entering a room of the house with Mr Brown allegedly brandishing the lit butane torch.

Det Sen Constable Coombs said after exiting the home, Mr Brown and the co-accused had a conversation in the street with a neighbour before leaving in a vehicle parked nearby.

“The neighbour saw the dwelling was alight, they attended and extricated the occupants,” he said.

The court heard it took fire crews about one hour to extinguish the blaze which left the home completely gutted, placing the occupants "at risk of serious injury or death".

“The parties involved have gone their separate ways in order to try and maintain their own personal safety,” Det Sen Constable Coombs said.

“The accused had the audacity to contact (one of the) victims and threaten to assault her if she continued to detail his involvement in the matter.”

The court heard the home was a dual occupancy residence, with the neighbours also having to relocate following the blaze.

The inside of the home was completely destroyed during the blaze.

Det Sen Constable Coombs said Mr Brown was on bail at the time of the alleged offending.

He faces 10 charges which include arson, reckless conduct endangering life, reckless conduct endangering serious injury, aggravated burglary and home invasion.

The accused started crying in the dock on Wednesday and could be seen wiping tears from his face as his lawyer Luke Slater outlined the circumstances surrounding the death of his mother last week.

Mr Slater said Mr Brown's mother's impending funeral was one of a "combination of factors" which made him eligible to be released on bail.

“He is 23 years old, still youthful, this is his first time in custody, he has been in custody for two nights now and it has been a significantly sobering experiencing for him,” he said.

“It has really brought to the forefront of his mind the terrible situation he has found himself in considering his mother's funeral is likely to be within the next seven days.”

Mr Slater said Mr Brown had "significant" family support in the region.

The court was told the accused could be bailed to the address of his sister who was a person of "good character, a mother and a pivotal person in the family dynamic".

Mr Slater said his client had ADHD and Tourette's syndrome.

He argued this, along with the delay his client would likely face in getting the matter to trial, were significant issues.

Mr Slater said given Mr Brown's health status, his youth and the fact he had a fixed address he should be given the opportunity to comply with strict bail conditions.

Magistrate Peter Mithen acknowledged Mr Brown's "fairly extensive" history with the courts.

He said despite this the accused had reached the threshold of exceptional circumstances, saying he believed conditions of bail could be imposed to "ameliorate the risk".

“These are very serious charges — the obligation is on you to make sure you walk a very fine line and don’t breach your bail,” Mr Mithen said.

Mr Brown was bailed to face court again in October.


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