Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the prospect of increased penalties for arsonists who put lives and properties at risk.

With warmer, drier weather approaching, the standard non-parole period for convicted arsonists is set to increase from five years to nine years.

Ms Cooke said NSW Government had introduced an amendment to implement the recommendation of the Sentencing Council to help ensure those who commit bushfire offences spend more time behind bars.

“It is vital that we have strong laws in place to protect hard-working farmers and farming communities from those who choose to risk lives and destroy property,” Ms Cooke said.

“We are already battling drought in the Cootamundra electorate and I thoroughly welcome this proposed amendment which will send a strong message that arson is an appalling act which will not be tolerated by this Government.

“Potential arsonists must think about the families and children who could be killed or injured and the awful emotional toll of losing everything and having to rebuild homes and farms from scratch.”

In 2018, Attorney General Mark Speakman asked the Sentencing Council to review the standard non-parole period.

As a result of the review, the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 will be amended to increase the standard non-parole period for the bushfire offence under section 203E of the Crimes Act 1900. The offence applies to the charge of intentionally causing a fire and being reckless about it spreading on public land or someone else’s property.

“The tougher standard non-parole period builds on the Government’s introduction of a tougher penalty for the bushfire offence, which increased the maximum penalty from 14 to 21 years in November last year,” Mr Speakman said.

Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said one act of stupidity could bring a community to its knees.

“There is no excuse for starting a bushfire, which is why the longer standard non-parole period, on top of tougher maximum sentences, reflects the seriousness of the crime,” he said.

As part of its review, the Sentencing Council received submissions from stakeholders including the Law Society of NSW, Legal Aid NSW, NSW Police Force, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Rural Fire Service Association. The majority agreed the standard non-parole period for arson should be increased.