A Lake Heights man has been found guilty of lighting fires but was deemed not criminally responsible due to his severe intellectual disability.
Warren Fletcher Munday was arrested in August 2020 after neighbours captured video footage of him repeatedly setting fire to furniture and other household items in the dead of night on a vacant, heavily vegetated block less than 100 metres from his house.
The 55-year-old had lived at the address his entire life. He was charged with 29 counts of intentionally causing fires and being reckless as to its spread.
During a court appearance in August, Judge Andrew Haesler ruled Munday was unfit to stand trial due to his intellectual disability.
During a three-day special hearing last week, Judge Haesler was asked to find if the physical aspects of the charges could be proved regardless of Munday's defence of cognitive impairment.
In court on Friday, Judge Haesler handed down his judgment of a "special verdict" where he said each of the acts for all charges were were proven not but Munday was not criminally responsible.
Judge Haesler reviewed witnesses statements and CCTV footage, before determining all evidence established that only one person, Munday, was responsible for the fires and he had ready access to the block and brought furniture to it.
"The person depicted in the CCTV bears a resemblance to Munday, he is wearing clothes similar to those often worn by Mr Munday, whoever lit the fire must live close to the vacant block," Judge Haesler said.
"Mr Munday was seen lighting a fire in similar circumstance in 2014, those circumstances include a the type of fuel used, a lounge, the fact that other items were placed on top of the pile and lit at the top of the pile; that evidence and the force of all the other evidence establishes Mr Munday did have the tendency to act as alleged and it was no coincidence he was involved with each fire.
"I am convinced on the limited evidence available, to the beyond reasonable doubt standard, that it was Munday who did each of the physical acts to establish each of the 29 counts."
Judge Haesler also considered the unanimous opinions of doctors about Munday' condition.
"There is ample evidence before me to conclude that on balance Munday, because of his cognitive impairment, is not criminally responsible of any of the offences," he said.
"At the time he did each act, his cognitive impairment meant that he did not know the nature and quality of his act and did not know the act was wrong.
"I note the evidence before me was sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that. . . Munday was capable of appreciating the possibility that once lit, the fire could spread beyond its immediate confines although he had no capacity to discern that property and lives were in danger."
The case was adjourned to November 19.
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