October 17, 2008

$800,000 damage bill from arsonist's crime spree

John Ngarimu Rattray caused $800,000 damage in his eight-day crime spree, when he torched cricket clubrooms and a church hall.

Many of the losses can’t be valued or replaced.

The St Albans Cricket Club lost 103 years of its records.

Six months after Rattray’s burglary and arson, the High School Old Boys’ Cricket Club is still cleaning up.

Irreplaceable property – including religious items – were lost when he attacked the Sacred Heart Parish Church and set fire to the church hall.

The hall now can’t be used by the groups that used to go there, and the priest says the church has “lost its lustre and shine, perhaps permanently”.

Rattray, 44, won’t have to pay for any of the damage. He’s got nothing, and now has a three year prison sentence ahead of him.

Christchurch District Court Judge David Holderness accepted the submissions of defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger that payment of reparations was “a forlorn hope”.

“Fortunately for the victims, they by and large have been covered by insurance,” he said at Rattray’s sentencing on five charges of burglary and three of arson.

Miss Bulger said Rattray wanted to make amends. He had expressed his remorse in the reparation report when he said he was willing to meet the victims, if any wanted to see him.

The crown submissions from prosecutor Marcus Zintl put the reparation figure at $800,000. “This offending has really struck at the heart of the community,” he said. “It was deliberate and it was intended to harm people and society.”

Rattray had put firefighters and police in danger at the fire scenes by opening a valve on an LPG canister, and by putting a fire extinguisher in the oven and turning on the heat.

The burglaries occurred from April 21 to 29. Judge Holderness said the offending including vandalising of items of considerable sentimental value. At one burglary, Rattray had placed an aerosol can on top of a barbecue he ignited.

He said the victim impact statements “make depressingly sad reading”.

“The very real disappointment and upset caused to large numbers of people by your offending has affected many lives in real and serious ways.”

He noted the reports to the court showed Rattray had suffered for about 10 years from a mental disorder characterised by periods of major depressive illness and recurrent hypermanic episodes.

“But the doctor is quite satisfied that you knew you were committing offences and behaving in a legally and morally quite unacceptable way.”

The judge also noted that Rattray’s actions had posed a significant danger to the firefighters who attended the scenes, and to members of the public. “There is no doubt there is a need for your conduct to be denounced and for the court to be concerned with the issue of deterrence.”

In jailing Rattray for three years, he took account of his guilty pleas, his status as a first offender apart from some driving offences 20 years ago, and his history of psychiatric problems.