Tabulam fire accused to face hearing over intent, damage
THE alleged intent and extent of property damaged by a destructive Tabulam bushfire will be considered in a hearing later this year.
Natasha Spiller, who allegedly lit the fire that tore through properties and bushland, faced Casino Local Court this morning.
The 40-year-old is alleged to have started a fire that destroyed 18 homes and burnt through more than 7500 hectares of land in the Tabulam area in February.
She allegedly set material alight inside a drum on her Tabulam property on the morning of February 13 and allowed the blaze to spread.
The destructive fire was battled by emergency crews for weeks and saw the area under emergency alert on several occasions before it was contained.
Ms Spiller's lawyer, Vince Boss, had earlier lodged a plea of guilty to a charge of intentionally lighting a fire and being reckless to its spread.
But the next time the case returned to court, in May, the court rejected this plea.
In court this week, Mr Boss confirmed a police brief of evidence had been served.
The court heard there was an ongoing "live issue" involving the alleged intent of his client and the full extent of damage related to the allegations.
Mr Boss asked Magistrate David Heilpern whether these two issues should be resolved in the same, or separate, hearings.
Mr Heilpern said it would be preferable to have one hearing encompass both disagreements between the prosecution and defence.
"The plea was rejected, the court has made a determination that there's a live issue," Mr Heilpern said.
"The prosecution case is that she was reckless and the defence case is that she was careless."
Mr Boss asked whether Mr Heilpern would continue to preside over the matter when it proceeds to a hearing.
But the court heard the case would be heard by another Magistrate, as a new Grafton-based circuit that encompasses Casino is due to come into effect from next week.
Police prosecutor Carrie-Lee Locke told the court there were a number of witnesses in the matter.
Mr Heilpern scheduled the hearing for September 26.