AN attempted arson attack on Labor candidate Belinda Hassan has marred the contest in the marginal north Queensland seat of Dawson. In a disturbing incursion of violence into the election race, someone tampered with the fuel tank of Ms Hassan’s campaign car in an apparent attempt to create an explosion. CREDIT: 7NEWS
AN attempted arson attack on Labor candidate Belinda Hassan has marred the contest in the marginal north Queensland seat of Dawson. In a disturbing incursion of violence into the election race, someone tampered with the fuel tank of Ms Hassan’s campaign car in an apparent attempt to create an explosion. CREDIT: 7NEWS

Miner behind attempt to blow up Labor candidate’s car

A CENTRAL Queensland miner who tried to set Labor candidate Belinda Hassan's car on fire during the Federal Election campaign last year has been sentenced to three years in jail.

The jail sentence also related to a late-night arson rampage in Blackwater while Simon Joseph Petith, 36, was drunk

In recognition of 13 months already served in pre-sentence custody, the man was released on parole immediately.

Rockhampton's District Court heard this morning how Petith attempted to set alight Ms Hassan's car on Gordon St in Mackay last May.

She was in the middle of a campaign to win the seat of Dawson, which later went to the incumbent George Christensen.

 

Belinda Hassan
Belinda Hassan

"The defendant tried to light a car on fire by stuffing a plastic bag down the fuel tank line," Crown Prosecutor Samantha O'Rourke said.

"There is no suggestion that this was politically motivated offending. He was identified through his fingerprint."

Ms O'Rourke also described how a highly intoxicated Petith was thrown out of a Blackwater Hotel last August, kicking off a dangerous spree of arson which would threaten lives and destroy property.

"He lit fire to one of the bins outside of the hotel and the fire spread to the wall. There were staff still inside the hotel at the time," Ms O'Rourke said.

 

Property throughout Blackwater was damaged during an arson spree recently.
Property throughout Blackwater was damaged during an arson spree recently.

As Petith walked back to his accommodation, she said he ignited two more bins before setting fire to the tray of a Nissan Navara.

"He continued to another car where he also set fire to the contents of the tray but that fire was caught in time so the damage was limited, and finally, he set fire to another bin," she said.

"He was identified by the CCTV at the hotel, he was interviewed but denied participating in the offending."

Ms O'Rourke said Petith's latest offending was an escalation on the criminal history he had accumulated in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

 

Property throughout Blackwater was damaged during an arson spree recently.
Property throughout Blackwater was damaged during an arson spree recently.

Petith pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, three counts of wilful damage, one count of endangering particular property by fire and one count of attempted arson.

Defence Barrister Tom Polley said Petith's real problems began in 2016 when he lost his licence and was having problems with work, leading to an increased consumption of alcohol and an escalation in his mental health problems.

It was only when he was imprisoned that Petith received a formal diagnosis of his medical conditions from Queensland Government psychiatrists who were then able to properly medicate him.

He tendered documents showing Petith had worked hard on his rehabilitation during his incarceration and would be willing to comply with strict parole conditions.

Mr Polley read out a message from Petith addressing the court expressing his "sincere sorrow" for his actions.

"This is not me, now I'm on the right track, I won't be back," he said.

 

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While acknowledging the seriousness of the crimes, Judge Leanne Clare said this case differed because an undiagnosed mental condition, exacerbated by an excessive intake of alcohol where "the blackout appears to be genuine", had driven the offending.

"Deterrence and punishment are less relevant for you in these circumstances than it would have been for someone else," Ms Clare said.

"But not for your illness you would not have committed these offences."

His early guilty plea, remorse and co-operation with the treatment program gave her confidence that he was ready to be released into his Mackay-based father's care under strict parole conditions requiring a close link to mental health support services.

She sentenced Petith to the head sentence of three years imprisonment with immediate parole to take into account pre-sentence custody.



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