ACT News


Canberra New Year's Eve arson accused referred to mental health facility

A Queensland man accused of torching his family's car in central Canberra on New Year's Eve has been referred to a mental health facility for examination.

The 45-year-old from Longreach faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Saturday morning charged with arson of the Toyota Hilux on Thursday night.

Prosecutor Paul Sweeney recommended the defendant be referred to a healthcare facility for immediate treatment after he allegedly told police officers he was "hearing voices".

Police came across the burning car on London Circuit's grass verge about 9pm while conducting New Year's Eve patrols.

According to court documents they tried to extinguish the fire, which had spread to most of the ute, without success, before firefighters arrived.

The defendant allegedly approached police with a woman's handbag during the incident and told them he owned the burning car.


No one was in the vehicle at the time of the fire and no one nearby was injured, but the ute was severely damaged.

A witness to the fire told police he and his wife saw a man throw a lit object into the canopy of the ute before running into nearby bushes.

Court documents said the defendant's wife indicated she believed her husband may have deliberately set the vehicle on fire, and that she feared for the safety of her family when alone with him.

She told police her husband left the picnic area at which the family were sitting about 9pm.

She said that shortly after he left she saw the family car on fire, and when she next saw the defendant he allegedly had "the odour of petrol" on him.

The man was taken into police custody, during which he spoke to both arresting officers and the ACT Mental Health Crisis and Assessment Team.

Mr Sweeney told the court the defendant had previously been referred to Longreach Hospital for mental health issues.

The man's lawyer, Hugh Jorgensen, did not oppose the application to have him referred for mental health treatment.

Magistrate Beth Campbell granted the request and the defendant was taken for clinical examination.

He will return to court for a bail hearing if he is discharged from the healthcare facility into the custody of a police officer.

The defendant has yet to enter a plea.

The alleged arson was one of many problems ACT Policing officers dealt with on New Year's Eve, as well as under-age drinking and drink-driving.