A man who destroyed a massage business because it “smelt bad, of semen” has been sentenced to 20 months’ jail for arson, but the business owner has said that doesn’t make up for financial losses she has endured.
On 7 November 2018, Andrew John Richardson pleaded guilty before the ACT Supreme Court of setting fire to Jenn’s Magic Massage, located in the Canberra suburb of Phillip.
The fire caused significant damage to the building, with the court describing the business losses in both equipment and earnings as being “very large sums of money”.
Mr Richardson was identified from CCTV footage and arrested by police on 6 September last year.
His reasoning was simply that the business “smelt”, but during consultations with a doctor who examined Mr Richardson as part of the proceedings, he was quoted as saying, “I was having a bad night, not hearing voices, was not sleeping, I was agitated, walked in there one time and its smelt bad, of semen”.
The court noted that Mr Richardson is socially isolated and has a history of mental illness, including self-harm and suicide attempts, and was previously diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2002 and has also been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome.
Nevertheless, the court noted that arson is a serious crime, as evidenced by the maximum penalty of 15 years’ jail and/or a $225,000 fine under ACT law.
“Without knowing why he committed the crime, it is difficult to know if he is likely to reoffend. One can only assume that the crime was precipitated by his mental health issues. The authors of the Pre-Sentence report have assessed him as having a low to medium risk of reoffending,” Justice Michael Elkaim said in his judgment.
“There has been a degree of compliance with medication and treatment while the offender has been in custody. He should not remain in custody just to receive treatment.
“However, the seriousness of the offence demands that he does remain in custody for some time, although I think his sentence should be suspended after a period, provided he enters into a Good Behaviour Order to allow him some time to be monitored in the community.”
Noting that Mr Richardson has been in custody since his arrest, Justice Elkaim sentenced him to 20 months’ jail, backdated to 6 September 2018. He will be eligible for release after 15 months, from 5 December 2019, on an 18-month Good Behaviour Order.
The business’ operator, whose name has been withheld to protect her privacy, told My Business that while she is glad the perpetrator has now been sentenced, she is still left out of pocket as a result of the damage.
It is understood that the business, which its website said offered traditional Chinese and other styles of massage treatments, has not reopened as a result of the losses incurred by the fire.
In a separate case, an Adelaide man was jailed in February last year for burning down a travel agency belonging to his ex-girlfriend, in a blaze that also destroyed other neighbouring businesses.
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Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.