Serial arsonist slapped with maximum 25-year jail term

Penalty could not be higher if defendant had committed mass murder

A collective of judges in Castelo Branco has created precedent today in sentencing a serial arsonist to the maximum jail term allowed under Portuguese Law: 25 years.

The sentence could not be higher if the defendant had committed mass murder.

As it is, judges are satisfied with the prosecution’s case that the defendant – a 39-year-old electrical engineer – caused 16 wildfires between 2017 and 2020, one of which was considered ‘aggravatated’ as it “caused a victim” (reports this morning have not explained what kind of victim. A fatality? Or someone badly burnt?)

In the words of Lusa news agency, the collective of judges “sentenced the defendant to a sentence of nine years in prison for each of the 15 fires, with an aggravated penalty of 11 years in prison for a fire that caused a victim”.

The man has been in preventive custody since July 2021. He is a resident of the municipality of Sertã, Castelo Branco district.

In the trial’s first hearing, he “admitted to the court that the Public Prosecutor’s facts in the indictment were true in full, except for the fire registered on 22 June 2017, which he said he did ‘not remember’, although he admitted knowing the place where it occurred”, Lusa continues.

President of the panel of judges, João Mateus, considered the defendant “acted intentionally, knowingly and knowing that his conduct was punishable by law”.

He also considered that the “degree of illicitness was high” and that “the defendant spread terror over the (three) years” in question, among the affected communities”.

The court’s decision also took into account the defendant’s professional training. He graduated in electrical engineering and “used his skills to build incendiary devices over days, months and years”.

“The defendant acted deliberately,” said Judge Mateus, referring to psychiatric analysis which considered the fire-raiser “always had full capacity for self-determination and was never absent from reality”.

A request for civil compensation of €4.4 million made by the Public Prosecutor and the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection of €4.4 million was also upheld.

This is the amount that was spent on fighting the various fires, explains Lusa.

The lawyer for the hitherto unidentified electrical engineer has said he intends to appeal the sentence.

But for the time being it will stand as the highest prison term ever handed out for arson in a country ravaged by the actions of arsonists every single year.