Judge rejects Coniston firestarter's claims police paperwork was 'defective'

Krste Kovacevski fronts court in August.
Krste Kovacevski fronts court in August.

A Coniston man appealing his conviction and jail sentence for burning down a house so his ex-wife wouldn’t get it in their divorce has failed to convince a judge that the police paperwork detailing the charge against him was “defective”.

Krste Kovacevski poured petrol throughout the Jutland Avenue home and lit it on fire in the early hours of August 4 last year, just hours after his lawyer lodged signed legal documents on his behalf transferring ownership of the home to his ex-wife, in line with family law orders handed down on July 22.

When police arrived, Kovacevski admitted to having lit the fire and pointed to divorce paperwork, saying “that's where it started”.

He was charged with damaging property by fire, but pleaded not guilty, claiming the home was still legally his when he set it on fire.

However, Magistrate Mark Douglass rejected Kovacevski’s defence after a hearing in June and found him guilty.

In an appeal hearing in Wollongong District Court on Thursday, defence lawyer Paul Paine argued Kovacevski’s conviction had been based on a “defective” court attendance notice (CAN) issued by police.

Krste Kovacevski with a supporter outside Wollongong courthouse on Thursday.

Krste Kovacevski with a supporter outside Wollongong courthouse on Thursday.

He suggested the use of the words “property of” in the CAN, instead of “belonging to”, meant a key element of the charge had been omitted from the paperwork, therefore rendering it invalid under the legislation.

However, Judge Andrew Haesler rejected the argument, saying he was satisfied the wording was adequate.

“I take the view the words “property of” are sufficiently similar words to “belonging to” so as to enable a proper description of the offence in the CANS,” he said.

Despite the ruling, Kovacevski’s bid to have his guilty finding overturned is not yet exhausted, with the case adjourned to next Thursday for argument over ownership of the house.

The Mercury understands Mr Paine will suggest prosecutors failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt during the Local Court hearing that the house belonged to Mrs Kovacevski when it was set on fire.