The now 20-year-old pleaded guilty to arson of the family's home.
The now 20-year-old pleaded guilty to arson of the family's home. Nev Madsen

Family to forgive son who burned down their home

A FAMILY is willing to forgive the young Toowoomba man who burnt down the family home, the city's District Court has heard.

Jarrad Joseph Schmidt-Lee was 19 and angry that his parents wouldn't let him use the car when he torched the family's Middle Ridge home on June 14 last year.

He had meticulously planned the fire, placing fuel tablets in different rooms as well as gas cylinders and removing batteries from smoke alarms before setting the house alight after his parents had gone to work and his brother to school, the court heard.

He had grabbed some of his belongings and the taken the dogs for a walk before returning to watch the fire take hold, prosecutor Grace Ollason told the court.

As Schmidt-Lee watched the blaze, neighbours had called emergency services, the court heard.

When spoken to by police later that day, Schmidt-Lee made full admissions to lighting the fire, telling police he wanted to see his parents cry.

The damage amounted to $250,000 for contents and $486,000 for the house which had been covered by insurance, Ms Ollason said.

The now 20-year-old had been held in custody since that day and had spent 11 months in jail before appearing in court to plead guilty to a count of arson.

In a three-page victim impact statement, the defendant's mother spoke of the family's willingness to forgive him, the court heard.

The family was in the process of rebuilding the home while living in rented accommodation.

Schmidt-Lee's parents and grandmother were in court for the sentence hearing and when released from custody it was planned he would live with his grandmother, his barrister Greg Maguire told the court.

Mr Maguire said his client had behavioural issues from an early age due to neurological developmental problems and had eventually been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome for which he had been medicated.

"He's a young fellow with very serious issues," he said.

His client's family had visited him in custody, he said.

Chief Judge Kerry O'Brien said he was satisfied in this case that the defendant's mental health issues had an effect on his behaviour which led to the arson though it was not suggested anyone had been put in danger and that it was not for some type of fraud as some arson cases were.

However, the case was serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence, he said.

By all comparable cases, the range for the sentence appeared to be three years in jail which was supported by the Crown and defence, he said.

 

Judge O'Brien sentenced Schmidt-Lee to three years in jail but, declaring 334 days (about 11 months) of pre-sentence custody as time already served under the sentence, ordered that he be released on parole forthwith.