Man who set fire to own home sentenced to one year in jail
A man who was angry that his wife did not buy him cigarettes and responded by burning his own house and car to the ground has been sentenced to 12 months in jail.
The defendant, Leitupo Seti Leitupo, was charged with being armed with a dangerous weapon; two charges of using threatening words; and one count of an invalid registration certificate in respect of the firearm.
He had pleaded guilty to all counts.
Sentencing was handed down by Supreme Court Justice, Leitaualesa Darryl Clarke on Monday.
According to a summary of facts the defendant was also unhappy with a neighbouring family for chopping down a tree on his land without his permission.
“As a result of this you grabbed a 12 cage shot gun which does not have a valid certificate of registration," the court was told in sentencing remarks that made reference to a Police report.
"You armed yourself with this shotgun and went to your neighbouring family. On your way to the neighbouring family you were approached by the village matai who removed the shot gun from thereby angering you more.”
The defendant returned to his residence and threatened his wife that he would “chop her head with a machete.”
Five days later the defendant was intoxicated and when his wife returned home from Bingo he inquired about his cigarettes. The defendant again threatened to chop her head off with a machete.
“Your wife became frightened and fled to the neighbouring family for help. This made you angry. You then got petrol and placed petrol in the closet in your family home," the Judge said.
"You then intentionally ignited the fire and lit the closet with reckless disregard to the safety of other properties belonging to you and your wife as well as the neighbouring properties.
"Consequently, an explosion occurred and the whole house became engulfed in flames. You and your wife’s vehicle was parked together closer to the house burnt together with the house to ashes.”
It was heard in court the defendant has prior convictions entered in the District Court in April 2018 for using threatening words, being armed with a dangerous weapon and possession of an unlawful firearm.
An aggravating factor considered in sentencing was that the offence was within a domestic relationship.
“The destruction of the home involving the destruction of the properties belonging to your wife and children that were in the home. It was a family home in which you all lived; and the dangerous weapon that you armed yourself with was a shotgun to confront your neighbour," the Judge continued.
“I do not accept that lives at risk as an aggravating feature to your offending. It is not in the summary of facts nor are you charged with arson in respect of danger to life. That the arson represented a risk to property is also inherent in the charge brought against you.”
Justice Leitaualesa told the defendant that his actions of burning the house was committed within a domestic relationship influenced by alcohol:
“You were angry with your wife primarily because she didn’t buy you cigarettes. Your actions have ended up with you destroying your own home and car. No value has been placed on the items lost in the fire. That you have lost your own personal property arises from your own foolishness.
"However, in your case, your actions have also caused loss to your wife and children. I accept that is an aggravating feature. I have little doubt that for your wife and children, the loss of the family home together with their belongings in that home would have been distressful.”
The defendant was ordered to be under the supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months and was directed to attend an alcohol and drugs programme of not less than six weeks' duration together with an anger management programme.