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Arson

punishment, property and penal

ARSON is the felonious, unlawful, and mal?c$ous setting fire to property. If to any dockyard, arsenal, or building connected therewith within this realm, or to one of his Majesty's ships, the punishment under a Statute of George III. is death. In the case of an offender subject to naval discipline the punishment is also capital, but the trial is by court-martial. To any other ship or to the goods on board, with intent to injure the owner of the ship or goods, the punishment is penal servitude for life or imprisonment; and if a male under sixteen, with or without whipping; while to attempt the same the punishment may be fourteen years' penal servitude. Arson to a place of divine worship, a dwelling-house with any person therein, or with intent to injure or defraud a port, dock, railway station, or other similar or connected property ; a public building, a coal mine or a stack of corn, cultivated vegetable produce or wood, and certain other similar property, may involve penal servitude for life. The punishment for an attempt at

arson of the last-mentioned class, or for arson of goods in buildings or of crops, can be fourteen years' penal servitude ; that for an attempt at arson of crops or a stack, being a term not exceeding seven years. Persons loitering at night and suspected of arson may be apprehended without warrant. It is not necessary to prove that the person charged with arson had any malice against the owner of the 'property, and the latter or persons in possession of the property injured can equally with other persons be guilty of this crime. If any person is burnt to death in consequence of the commission of arson the offender may be tried for murder, and if acquitted on such charge he may be retried on the same facts for the arson. If the fire is the result of negligence or accident, there is no arson ; nor would there be, in any case, without some actual ignition or charring, or if the fire were lighted with a bond fide claim of right.