Former Cape Breton firefighter sentenced to four years in prison for arson
Published Thursday, February 15, 2018 12:23PM AST
Last Updated Thursday, February 15, 2018 7:25PM AST
A former volunteer firefighter who pleaded guilty in connection with a string of fires in Cape Breton has been sentenced to four years in prison.
James MacDonald was sentenced Thursday in Sydney provincial court. The four-year sentence was a joint recommendation by the Crown and the defence.
The 24-year-old Bras d’Or man pleaded guilty to 14 counts of arson.
“I apologize to anyone that was affected by my actions,” MacDonald told the court.
MacDonald was charged in October 2016 following an investigation into a string of suspicious fires in structures, wooded areas, and vehicles in the Florence and Bras d’Or areas over several months.
Most of the buildings were vacant, but at least two of the fires were set to homes occupied by people.
Defence lawyer Nicole Campbell said MacDonald is relieved that the sentencing has been passed.
“He is looking forward to moving on with his life,” she said. “He did take responsibility for his actions, he knows what he did was not appropriate in any means and he feels very remorseful.”
Crown attorney Krista MacKinnon said the circumstances surrounding the case are disturbing.
“It’s an aggravating factor on sentencing that this individual was a volunteer firefighter because he had the knowledge of not only the dangers the fire presents to the structure, but the danger he’s putting the first responders in when they respond to a fire,” said MacKinnion.
Several of the victims were in court to submit impact statements outlining their losses.
“There’s always hope that they could come back and do something with the property or the memories that are there… the pictures that were still on the wall, those are the intangible losses that are suffered,” said MacKinnon.
According to court documents, police became interested in MacDonald in early July 2016. Investigators used several techniques including pinging MacDonald’s mobile phone minutes before a fire was reported.
Documents also confirmed that MacDonald was at the scene of several of the suspicious fires and helped extinguish some.
MacDonald is sentenced to pay more than $135,000 in restitution and he’s also facing a civil suit.
A second man, 52-year-old Stephen Tremblett of North Sydney, was also charged in connection with the fires. He pleaded guilty to five counts of arson and is set to be sentenced on March 7.
Tremblett and MacDonald were both members of the Florence Volunteer Fire Department at the time of the fires.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.