Wilful fire raising

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Wilful fire-raising is a common law offence under Scots law applicable to deliberately starting fires with intent to cause damage to property.

The offence is not fully equivalent to the offence charged as Arson in England and Wales but can be found described in such a manner in some official statistics dealing with destruction of property by fire where the equivalence has been made as a matter of convenience. In particular the Scots Law offence has to be "wilful"; if a fire is the result of an act of recklessness then the offence of Culpable and Reckless Conduct applies.[1] It is common to find both offences charged together where criminal events involve fire and both offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Prior to the case of Byrne v H.M. Advocate (No. 2)[2] there was a distinction between “wilful fire-raising” and “culpable and reckless fire-raising”.[3] The former dealt with heritable property (e.g. buildings, trees, crops) while the latter dealt with other property. That case determined that fire-raising (in a criminal context) would be either wilful or reckless (distinct from English statute law [4] which places both together).


  1. ^ "Fire: Raising the Standard". scotland.gov.uk. 
  2. ^ 2000 JC 155; 2000 SCCR 77; 2000 SLT 233
  3. ^ A Draft Criminal Code for Scotland with Commentary, pub. Scottish Law Commission 2003
  4. ^ s.1 Criminal Damage Act 1971

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