Nightclub arsonist gets no jail time

A NEW Brighton man found guilty of using a spray can to set alight a Byron Bay nightclub in April last year has been handed a 12-month suspended jail sentence in the Lismore District Court.

Benjamin Abrahams, 33, faced a possible 10-year stint behind bars for setting fire to the roof of the nightclub, Liquid, about 2.30am on Sunday, April 17 last year while about 30 patrons and staff were still inside.

The court heard he was refused entry a short time earlier due to his high level of intoxication.

A short time later staff heard noises at the back of the club and discovered a fire in the ceiling. Clubbers were evacuated and a fire hose was used to extinguish the blaze. Police found an exploded can of fluorescent green paint at the scene of the fire.

An officer noticed Abrahams when he wandered into Byron Bay Hospital covered in fluorescent green paint seeking treatment for substantial burns to his arms.

He was arrested and kept in hospital under guard overnight.

Abrahams appeared in the Lismore Local Court the next day, facing charges of destroying or dam- aging property with intent to endanger life.

He was initially refused bail and spent three weeks in custody before being granted conditional bail.

He has not re-offended since.

He admitted he had little recollection of the incident due his level of intoxication.

Some confusion remained about another fire that occurred that night and the Crown admitted no one really knew the full details, making it difficult to prove intent.

Abrahams sat quietly in the dock as his father, a welfare officer for Corrective Services in Tamworth, assured Judge James Black his son was "absolutely sorry" for the offence and had not had a drink since being arrested.

Judge Black took that into account, adding the court had to consider what had happened, not what could have happened, though he described the act of setting fire to a building "at the very least reckless and highly irresponsible" when considering the sentence.

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