Bail stays for alleged parliament arsonist

Dominic Giannini |

A man charged with arson following a fire at Canberra’s Old Parliament House has had his bail upheld after breaching conditions within 15 minutes of leaving prison. 

The 30-year-old Victorian man appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday for the second time in two days, where Magistrate Peter Morrison upheld his bail.

The accused – who cannot be named because of a suppression order – was initially granted bail on Tuesday under strict conditions.

The man was told he would not be allowed to enter the ACT unless for legal appointments.

He was also barred from entering the suburb of Parkes – where Old Parliament House is located – unless accompanied by Australian Federal Police to collect his personal items.

Defence lawyer Sam McLaughlin said the man misunderstood the bail condition to not enter the suburb of Parkes, thinking the condition referred to the tent embassy.

Mr McLaughlin said the man intended to approach police guarding Old Parliament House to escort him to the tent embassy to collect his belongings.

“The risk of reoffending is quite minimal … given the police presence at Old Parliament House,” he told the court on Wednesday.

But prosecutor Kiara Sheridan wanted bail revoked due to the immediacy of the breach, telling the court the man breached his conditions within 15 minutes of leaving prison on Tuesday.

She argued even updated bail conditions wouldn’t ameliorate the likelihood of reoffending and rejoining the protest movement outside Old Parliament House. 

Magistrate Morrison said he was prepared to give the man the benefit of the doubt.

“(The breach was) not a particularly serious crime, only being present somewhere he ought not to been and not involving criminal conduct,” he said.

ACT Policing confirmed the accused was arrested alongside another man who had been arrested for a driving offence on Tuesday afternoon.

“The man was arrested for breaching bail conditions that had been granted in court earlier in the day, whereby he was instructed not to enter the suburb of Parkes except in the company of a police officer, to collect personal items,” an ACT Policing spokesman said in a statement. 

The man was remanded overnight before his court appearance on Wednesday.