Samuel Patton pleaded guilty in the Adelaide District Court to burning down his ex-girlfriend’s Adelaide travel agency in September last year. Two other neighbouring businesses – a chiropractor’s clinic and a packaging company – were also destroyed in the blaze.
The 58-year-old also pleaded guilty to breaching an intervention order – the equivalent of a restraining order – on multiple occasions.
Mr Patton, who had been drinking at the time of the fire but who was not deemed to have been “significantly affected by alcohol” read an apology in court for lighting the fire in the early hours of 27 September and the devastating impacts it had on all of those involved.
Judge Gordon Barrett said the building had been completely destroyed by the fire, with a replacement cost in excess of $500,000. The businesses had also lost in the vicinity of $220,000, although the true costs were considerably higher.
“The businesses have lost not just their physical assets, they have lost customers and their staff have been disadvantaged. That is quite apart from the psychological damage that has been caused to each of the three proprietors and the owner of the building,” said Judge Barrett.
The judge also noted this was not the first time Mr Patton had breached an intervention order, having faced court in April 2015 for contravening a separate order by his ex-wife of 32 years.
“It appears that you suffered from psychological difficulties after the break-up of your marriage in about 2013 and at about the same time the business or businesses with which you were associated went into liquidation,” he said.
“[Nevertheless] your actions in setting fire to your former partner’s business were calculated, premeditated and vindictive. In the process, you destroyed the two neighbouring businesses and you put at risk other property and possibly even other people.”
Mr Patton not only had an intimate knowledge of the travel agency, having contributed to it to some degree during his relationship with its owner, he knew the significance of a small business for its operators, having operated his own businesses and through his parents operating their own restaurants.
He was sentenced to four years and 10 months behind bars, with a non-parole period of two years and five months. The sentence took into account a 40 per cent reduction for his early guilty plea.