Arson Legal Definition:

The intentional setting of a fire to a building.

Related Terms: Corpus Delicti

Some jurisdiction define arson as the intentional setting of a fire to a building in which people live.

Others include as arson the intentionally setting of a fire to any building.

In either case, this is a very serious crime and is punishable by a long jail sentence.

Henri Bracton colorfully defined arson as:

"... when any one from turbulent sedition wickedly and feloniously made a conflagration."

William Blackstone wrote that the common law offence of arson was:

"... the malicious and wilful burning the house or out-house of another man."

But England abolished the common law offence and replaced it with a more precise statutory definition at §1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971:

"A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.

"A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, whether belonging to himself or another,intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered, shall be guilty of an offence.

"An offence committed under this section by destroying or damaging property by fire shall be charged as arson. "

Similarly, the Criminal Code of Canada, at §434 and §434.1provides a succinct definition of the offence and does not limit it to real property, whether residential, commercial, agricultural or other, or limit it to damage to property owned by another:

"Every person who intentionally or recklessly causes damage by fire or explosion to property that is not wholly owned by that person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

"Every person who intentionally or recklessly causes damage by fire or explosion to property that is owned, in whole or in part, by that person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years, where the fire or explosion seriously threatens the health, safety or property of another person."

French: le crime d’incendie.

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