Mon, February 09, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Deadly bushfire in Australia

Australian attorney-general: Arsonists could be charged with murder

2009-02-09 06:36:55 GMT2009-02-09 14:36:55 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

CANBERRA, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- The arsonists who set deadly fires in Victoria state over the past two days could be charged with murder, Australian federal attorney-general Robert McClelland said on Monday.

He told parliament that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was right to call arsonists "mass murderers" in the circumstances.

"Anyone who lights fires deliberately, with reckless disregard for the safety of their fellow Australians, in our view establishes the requisite criminal intent that would sustain a charge of murder," McClelland told parliament.

To successfully prosecute a murder charge, police must prove that someone committed the physical act that killed another and that they intended for the person to die.

Earlier on Monday, Rudd said that if the Victorian fires had been deliberately lit it would amount to "mass murder".

"What do you say about anyone like that - there are no words to describe it other than mass murder," Rudd said.

Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon said that all bushfire-devastated areas would be treated as crime scenes to determine if arson was involved.

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