Car torched in ‘heat of moment’ decision

A judge told an Oamaru man charged with arson his "heat of the moment" decision to torch a car was totally unwarranted.

On November 8, Dwyton Samuel Thomson, 48, had been drinking vodka for much of the afternoon, the Oamaru District Court heard this week.

When three associates arrived at 11pm, Thomson became racially abusive, inciting violence that would bring the evening to a fiery end.

Thomson and one of the men got into a physical altercation, both sustaining minor injuries.

The defendant went outside, grabbed a can of petrol and proceeded to pour it over the vehicle the associates arrived in.

Before hurling a racial slur, Thomson set the car ablaze. It only took a couple of minutes for the vehicle to become fully engulfed in flames.

By the time the car owner realised what was happening, it was too late.

As she attempted to open the vehicle to retrieve her personal belongings, she suffered burns to her hands, the court heard.

Emergency services arrived and put the fire out — but the vehicle had been gutted and the contents destroyed.

Police located Thomson hiding at the rear of the property.

He told them he had been the victim of an unprovoked assault, court documents said.

Counsel Michael de Buyzer said the incident was a spontaneous, irrational response that could not be justified.

Judge Brian Callaghan disagreed.

"Well, it wasn’t spontaneous if he had time to go and grab the petrol can ... I can see it was more of a heat-of-the-moment thing,” he said.

"You went too far ... This was totally unwarranted.”

Thomson was convicted of arson and sentenced to 180 hours’ community work and 12 months’ supervision and ordered to pay $2700 reparation.

One of the victims’ associates faces a charge of assault arising from the incident and will appear in the Dunedin District Court later this year.