Man jailed after torching mother's car

The hardest thing for a woman whose car was deliberately burnt by her son because of his anger about an unpaid loan was her feeling she had been betrayed, a Dunedin judge said yesterday.

"She says her life will never be the same again,'' Judge Michael Crosbie told 28-year-old Dunedin tattooist Darcy Aaron Purches, who was sentenced to 16 months' jail for arson.

Purches was before the judge in the Dunedin District Court after earlier admitting he intentionally damaged his mother's Hyundai Lantra by dousing it with petrol and setting it alight on December 7.

He also admitted unrelated charges of failing to stop after his car collided with a taxi in Princes St on December 8, driving dangerously and with a breath alcohol level of 548mcg on Taieri Rd on May 3 and two charges of failing to report for community work between April 29 and May 13 and May 23 and June 6.

Judge Crosbie said the defendant's mother was "pragmatic'' about the money but sad she had lost her relationship with her son. And she was worried about the threats he had made in text messages before the fire.

She had guaranteed a personal loan for her son so he could buy a car, and also lent him money. But when he failed to continue the loan payments and had not repaid any of her money, she spoke to him about the matter. He became very angry and abusive, sent threatening text messages to her then set fire to her car.

Crown counsel Richard Smith said while home detention was an alternative to a prison sentence, arson was a serious charge and prison was the appropriate sentence.

Counsel Anne Stevens said Purches was ashamed at his loss of control towards his mother. He had undertaken a stopping violence programme which he found helpful, and was open to doing more work on his anger control.

Judge Crosbie said the victim impact statement was sad and spoke of the far-reaching effects of the defendant's behaviour. Because he had reneged on repaying the loan guaranteed by his mother, it was some time before she was able to get another car.

The judge acknowledged references from the defendant's partner and her mother as well as a reflective letter from Purches himself about the helpfulness of the stopping violence programme.

But he said the offending was aggravated by the defendant's prior convictions.

Probation did not support a sentence of home detention and the arson was a sudden escalation of Purches' offending, and an indication of his likelihood to cause harm in the future.

Declining to substitute home detention, Judge Crosbie sentenced Purches to 16 months' jail on the arson, with concurrent prison terms of one month each on the driving charges on which he was also disqualified for six months.

His prison sentence is to be followed by counselling and treatment for six months under post-detention conditions.

On the breaches of community work, Purches was convicted and discharged and the uncompleted sentence was cancelled.