Break-up led to arson

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:38 18/07/2014
Dallington arson
TORCHED: The Dallington house damaged after being set alight in an arson attack last year.
Aaron Swan
JAILED: Aaron Swan has been jailed for arson and threatening his former partner.

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A 29-year-old man says emotion about the end of a 10-year relationship overwhelmed him when he set fire to the rental house where his partner had been living.

The house in Birchfield Ave, Dallington, was damaged in the blaze on July 17, last year. It was empty at the time but some property belonging to the arsonist, Aaron James Swan, was still on-site.

Swan was jailed for four years at his Christchurch District Court sentencing today, after admitting charges of threatening to injure his partner, and of arson.

He is already serving a 20-month term for receiving stolen property, but Judge Raoul Neave imposed further sentences that will effectively amount to a four-year term.

Defence counsel Lee Lee Heah said Swan was remorseful, and had explained the arson to the probation officer at his pre-sentence interview.

Before he was scheduled for release from prison, he found out that his partner of 10 years, and the mother of his two children, was leaving him and planned to "disappear" with the children, Heah said.

Soon after his release, he went to the empty house to collect his clothes. "In a moment of anger, when he felt hurt and abandoned and alone, he wanted the complainant to feel the hurt and pain he was feeling at the time. In a stupid, irrational moment he decided to set fire to the house," she said. "It's something he deeply regrets."

For the first time, his offending had nothing to do with being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, she said. "His emotions got the better of him."

Judge Raoul Neave said that when Swan found his children were being taken away he had reacted by threatening his partner and making her even more fearful. He then decided to vent his frustrations by setting fire to the property, causing damage from heat and smoke. Most of the items inside that were damaged turned out to be his own.

The judge decided not to order reparations payments because that would "trap" Swan in the system and would not do him, or the victim, or society any good.

Swan had started one-on-one counselling, but it was too early to say whether he would take part in a meaningful way., he said.

The judge urged Swan to take advantage of any programmes or counselling that were offered to him: "The remedy is entirely in your hands."

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