A teenager accused of lighting several fires while volunteering with the Rural Fire Service in northern NSW has been granted strict conditional bail.
Brendan Piccini, 18, was arrested in November 2020 and is expected to plead guilty after making “frank admissions about his offending conduct” to police, the NSW Supreme Court heard on Tuesday.
He faces 10 charges for intentionally causing fire and being reckless to its spread, between October and November 2020.
He also faces an additional charge of possessing an unauthorised replica pistol after it was allegedly found in his bedside table when police searched his room.
Justice Stephen Campbell said the charges were “very serious”, some carrying a maximum term of 21 years in prison, but granted his bail after the Crown agreed his limitations were tight.
“On the face of the matters, he participated in this activity for the purpose of being seen to be executing his skills for the benefit of the community,” Justice Campbell said.
Piccini had recently completed training to serve the Burringbar Rural Fire Brigade and was an active member when he set a number of grasslands on fire.
But defence lawyer Mark Klees submitted there were psychological issues that needed dealing with and his parents had already arranged for this to be done.
The teenager had previously been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and had suffered learning difficulties and bullying at school, court documents show.
“These charges often occur with people who are gaining attention or have personality problems, otherwise he’s a law-abiding person,” Mr Klees said.
No person or property was harmed during each offence after emergency services quickly responded and extinguished the blazes.
Piccini has no prior criminal history and was a well-regarded community member having been a long-serving volunteer at the local surf lifesaving club, the court heard.
His parents offered $10,000 as surety which Justice Campbell felt was a significant amount of money and enough to deter Piccini from putting “one foot out of line” while on bail.
Other conditions include regular reporting to police and not to leave his home unless accompanied by one of his parents.