Man set fire to his couch

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
A man with a history of mental health issues was handed a suspended sentence over the house fire.
Camera IconA man with a history of mental health issues was handed a suspended sentence over the house fire. Credit: South Western Times

A man with a history of mental health issues who tried to admit himself into a psychiatric unit before returning to his Withers home and setting fire to a couch and leaving has avoided jail.

Aaron Luke Soulos, 30, told police he no longer wanted to live at the home and he did not like his neighbours after starting the November 23, 2017 fire, then watching from a nearby park as firefighters responded.

Soulos was sentenced in Bunbury District Court on Monday when he pleaded guilty to one count of wilfully and unlawfully damaging a house by fire.

The blaze caused $25,000 in damage to the Kestrel Street home before it extinguished itself.

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The court was told Soulos had tried to get help from doctors earlier in the day, with defence lawyer Paul Chapman arguing mental health experts had “refused to help him”.

“Society doesn’t really cater for people that well with mental health,” Mr Chapman said.

“If, as he should have been, taken in the acute psychiatric unit, he wouldn’t be before the court today with this offending.

“I’m not saying they’re responsible, but if the community had provided better assistance to Mr Soulos, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Mr Chapman said after Soulos was refused help, he returned home with “auditory hallucinations” and set fire to the couch.

He said Soulos had since had a supportive carer for 18 months and was on medication.

A medical report noted Soulos had been diagnosed with “treatment-resistant” schizophrenia, intellectual disability, antisocial personality disorder, and poly-substance misuse.

State prosecutor Jarrad Goold conceded the matter was a “very difficult sentencing exercise” but immediate prison was required because of the seriousness of the offending and it was unlikely Soulos could comply with a mental health regime that would ensure he did not re-offend.

Judge John Staude said there was no question Soulos’ mental health illness and intellectual disability reduced his moral culpability and made him a “poor” vehicle for general deterrence.

Judge Staude said the offending was so serious jail was appropriate, but given Soulos’ progress since the incident, along with requirements including abstinence from cannabis, the sentence could be suspended.

Soulos was sentenced to 18 months jail, suspended for 12 months subject to supervision including drug testing.

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