Arsonist’s sentence appeal rejected

A man convicted of arson — including setting fire to a house with his partner and children inside — burglary and making false statements to police has lost an appeal of his sentence.

In the High Court at Invercargill before Justice Gerald Nation on June 28, Shane James Lyon (who was 39 when he was sentenced in January), of Temuka, had his appeal to commute his sentence of 24 months’ jail to home detention dismissed.

Justice Nation’s decision, dated July 2, said the sentence on two charges each of arson, burglary and making false statements was handed to Lyon when he appeared before Judge Bernadette Farnan via audiovisual link in the Queenstown District Court in January.

Lyon was also ordered to pay $7050 in reparation.

He appealed his sentence on the basis it was not the least restrictive outcome, saying home detention should have been imposed instead.

The offending happened while Lyon was working on a 6000ha station at Galloway near Alexandra from September 2018 until his arrest in August last year.

His victims were his former employers.

Lyon lived in a three-bedroom house with his then wife and two children, while another family lived in a cottage 150m away and the property owners lived in the homestead nearby.

Shortly after Lyon started working at the station, the victims noticed cash in envelopes went missing from their kitchen — amounts up to $400 were taken and $650 was taken from a children’s sport fundraiser in March 2019.

The victims reported the thefts to police and cameras were installed only to be later stolen or disabled.

About 7.30pm on August 13, 2019 — after the owners had left the station for 48 hours — Lyon took $180 cash from the kitchen, then placed a tea towel in the oven and turned it on.

He then broke into a gun cabinet, took four rifles and placed them as if they had been dropped by fleeing burglars, but then returned to the homestead and turned the oven off.

Lyon called police and said he had disturbed some burglars who had fled, but he had recovered the firearms and doused the fire in the oven.

On August 14, Lyon alerted his family to a fire at their back door.

They fled the house but Lyon did not attempt to put out the fire or call the fire service.

A fire investigator later found accelerant had been used to start it.

Two days later, Lyon told the farm owner he had been confronted by masked men near his house and said the men had a photograph of his children, which they had stolen from the house, and threatened to harm his children if he did not co-operate.

The farm owner reported the incident as a home invasion to police.

Lyon later admitted to police that he tried to burn down the homestead to cover his offending but thought better of it, however he denied setting the fire at his own back door.

Following two adjournments, on September 9 last year Judge Farnan provided Mr Lyon with a sentence indication and on September 14, Lyon’s defence counsel told the court he intended to accept it.

On October 22, his counsel sought an adjournment due to Lyon suffering a gunshot wound.

On December 3, Lyon pleaded guilty to all charges.

In his decision, Justice Nation said Judge Farnan’s January 18 decision to impose a short jail term, rather than home detention, was justified and was not ‘‘manifestly excessive’’.

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