A MAN who badly burnt three teenagers after pouring accelerant on a backyard bonfire in Gunnedah has been given a community corrections order (CCO).
Judge Jeffery McLennan said it was an act of “rank stupidity” that Raymond Harland Hubbard poured a mixture of sump oil and petrol on the blaze before the “flame jetting” set fire to the three boys sitting around the bonfire.
“In terms of rank stupidity, it’s at the high end of the range,” Judge McLennan said.
“In terms of criminal negligence, it’s at the lower end of the range.”
The now 50-year-old walked from Tamworth District Court on Wednesday, flanked by family members after being sentenced for the 2016 explosion that critically injured two teen boys.
Hubbard was given three CCOs, or good behaviour bonds, for a maximum of 15 months after pleading guilty to negligently causing grievous bodily harm.
Judge McLennan said “the classification of this fire is accidental”: even though the offender deliberately poured the accelerant, he said, “he did not intend the results”.
Hubbard was 47 when he hosted the party on the night of November 5, 2016, using a drum from a washing machine for a fire.
I can't imagine anything worse, quite frankly, than being set on fire - accidentally or not.Judge Jeffery McLennan
Using “a splashing motion”, he poured the accelerant to fuel the fire.
The three boys, who were seated about 1.5m from the fire, were covered to a varying extent. All three ran from the fire, one rolled on the grass, and another ran away and took his clothes off, as witnesses poured ice water on the victims to help.
A victim impact statement from one of the boys tendered to the court detailed the horrific injuries, saying that “when this happened, I was in so much pain I wanted to die”.
“I can’t imagine anything worse, quite frankly, than being set on fire – accidentally or not,” Judge McLennan said.
One of the boys suffered burns to 44 per cent of his body including his face and upper and lower limbs, and suffers nightmares as a result.
He “will require lifelong therapy”, and can’t be out in the sun, which now stings his burnt skin. He used to play football, but it was now “impossible for him to do”.
“He has reduced enjoyment of life,” Judge McLennan said.
“The physical injuries to [the victim] are only half of what he has experienced”.
A second boy suffered burns to 13 per cent of his body including his face, hands, thighs and calves, and required skin grafts.
The third suffered partial-thickness burns to part of his body.
Public defender Stuart Bouveng tendered a Namoi Valley Independent article detailing Hubbard’s remorse.
Judge McLennan said Hubbard’s organisation of a charity ride to raise funds for the victims was a “rare example of a concrete ... show of remorse”.
He said an expert report showed the “classification for this fire is accidental”, and criticised the prosecution for delays after Hubbard had agreed to plead guilty in April 2017.
“Why did it take 18 months to accept the offer?” he asked.
“Why did it take 18 months to get to this position?”
The court heard a fire investigator was asked in April 2017 for his expert opinion and to conduct live fire tests – which weren’t carried out until July 2018, with a report provided to the prosecution and defence in early October.
He said the report was “confirming expert opinion” of “something that was obvious” in April 2017, Judge McLennan said.
He gave Hubbard a 25 per cent discount for his pleas and said he had sought to have the matter cleared 18 months ago.