'Just being an idiot' - no conviction for couch burner

A student who burned an upholstered chair in the middle of the road in Castle St early one morning in May has been discharged without conviction.

Austin Alexander Andrew (20), of Dunedin, had admitted a charge of disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence.

He received the discharge when he appeared before Community Magistrate Simon Heale in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

The police summary said Andrew was on Castle St at about 1.10am on May 5.

Aided by another person, he pulled an upholstered chair from his property into the middle of the road.

Andrew was wearing a hoodie, obscuring his face from CCTV cameras in the area.

Spraying from an aerosol can, he tried to ignite the spray with a lighter. He repeated the action several times to establish combustion.

Once the chair started to burn, he added paper to the flames.

University Campus Watch officers patrolling the area apprehended him.

The fire was extinguished without the need to call Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and there was no damage to the road surface.

The chair had no value. It was from Andrew's flat.

Andrew gave a false name to the Campus Watch officers and left without waiting for police.

Inquiries by Campus Watch and police led to him being identified.

Spoken to, he admitted his actions and said he was "just being an idiot".

Counsel Jo Turner, seeking a discharge, said Andrew had missed out on a full year of study.

"The offending occurred in May. As a result he was immediately suspended from study ... and from the current semester."

Andrew had completed his first year of a bachelor of commerce degree. This was to have been his second year. He would be able to apply for re-enrolment next year but would have to pass the university's good character test, Ms Turner said.

The magistrate noted Andrew had written letters of apology to the fire service and police.

He also noted Andrew's parents were New Zealand citizens living in the United States. A conviction could put at risk his visa status.

Andrew had offered to pay $500 to Fenz.

The magistrate considered that appropriate and, when he granted the discharge, he said Andrew was to pay the $500 by December 15.

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