There are many different types of acts that can fall under the category of arson. A person who deliberately or negligently causes damage, by fire or explosion, to real estate or other tangible property can be convicted of this offence.

This can be the case even if they do not own the property. If someone owns a property they are still liable for arson where they know or are reckless to the fact that the property that was burned is occupied or where the fire causes bodily harm to another person.

Lastly, someone is criminally liable of this offence where they negligently cause a fire or explosion that results in bodily harm to another person or damage to the property.


The maximum sentence for this offence is life in prison. Additionally a person found guilty of this charge can be subject to other ancillary orders including a DNA order and a weapons prohibition.

Arson Disregarding Human Life

This occurs in a situation that results in bodily harm to another person or where a fire is set to a property that a person knows is inhabited or the person is reckless to this fact. This particular type is the most serious and a person convicted of this faces a maximum life sentence.

Arson Damaging Property

This type of arson deals with setting property that one does not wholly own alight. Even if a person owns a property, unless they own it exclusively, they can be found guilty of arson if they set it on fire or cause an explosion.

Can a Person be Convicted of Burning Their Own Property?

A person can still be found guilty of this offence even if the property that is set on fire belongs to them. If by causing a fire or explosion that would otherwise be legal, another person’s health of safety is threatened, a person can be found guilty.

What is Fraudulent Arson?

Fraudulent arson is committed with the intention of cheating another person or company. One of the most common examples of this is seen when a person sets a property on fire for the purpose of collecting an insurance payout. In determining whether or not there has been fraud, the court will consider whether or not the person charged with the offence is the beneficiary of an insurance policy on the property.

What is Arson by Negligence?

A person who owns part of a building or is in control of the building can be convicted of negligent arson. This occurs when there is a “marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would use to prevent or control the spread of fires or to prevent explosions.” Cases of negligence often include landlords who have not properly maintained their properties or are in breach of fire code regulations. If a fire is caused or spread as a result of a person failing in their legal obligation to comply with any law that is meant to prevent fires, that person can be prosecuted for this offence.

Defending Arson Charges?

The time of a blaze is often easy to pinpoint because fires tend to be noticed by people in the nearby area. As a result, alibi defences are effective in defending arson and are commonly used.

One of the major components of proving an arson is the cause of the fire. Much of the evidence relating to the cause of a fire is often consumed in the blaze. As a result, the prosecutor may have difficulty in proving that a fire was caused either negligently or deliberately. Consequently, an alternative cause of a fire that provides reasonable doubt as to the deliberateness of a fire will be a successful defence to arson.

An accidentally set fire is not an arson. Like every other offence, the standard defences are available for this charge including identity and charter defences. It must be noted however that duress is not a defence to this specific charge.

Get in Touch

Lakin Afolabi is a criminal defence lawyer in London, Ontario. He has successfully represented individuals charged with many serious offences. If you or someone you know is looking for a lawyer to defend this specific charge, or any other contact him now for a consultation.

Lakin Afolabi LPC blog material is screened for authenticity as of the date of posting and accurately reflects the law to the best of our knowledge. Because the nature of the legal landscape is ever-changing we do not guarantee the future accuracy or completeness of this blog material past the date of posting. This material is not a replacement for advice received from our team of legal professionals. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk.