A man jailed for starting a bushfire in the South Coast's Deua Valley last summer has had his sentence reduced on appeal.
Last month Christopher Paul McMahon, 72, received a total sentence of two years' prison, with 18-months' non-parole, after previously being charged with permitting a fire to escape his land causing damage and/or injury, as well as lighting a fire for land clearance/firebreak without a permit.
The resident of Araluen Rd in the Deua Valley appeared over audio visual link in Bega District Court on Monday, October 19 to appeal his sentence and NSW district court Judge Andrew Haesler confirmed his guilty pleas to the two charges.
The representative for the Director of Public Prosecutions told the court McMahon had started the fire on Boxing Day during extreme bushfire conditions.
Judge Haesler said the facts of the case showed there were "two direct consequences" to the blaze started by McMahon; the fire was responsible for damage to a communications tower and NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters had to be diverted from the larger Currowan fire to combat it.
He also said the fire started by McMahon joined a larger fire.
Judge Haesler told the court he had personal experience of a bushfire disaster as he was staying in Tathra when the 2018 fire decimated the district, forcing him to evacuate.
"When I read the material this morning I had to put aside my ordinary person hat and put on my judge's hat," he said.
"Having experienced first-hand when fire went through the community I was staying in... I find it impossible to believe anyone can light a cigarette on a high fire day, let alone decide to burn twigs and grass.
"There are people in our community who think they know more than everyone else.
"You by your actions caused considerable damage and harmed the community you thought yourself a part," he told McMahon.
Judge Haesler accepted McMahon used alcohol to cope with a number of significant problems in his life and said he had background disabilities.
He said NSW local court Magistrate Doug Dick had imposed the maximum sentence on McMahon when originally sentencing him, "which was rare".
"I have to balance your personal circumstances with a need for the sentence to get through the thick skulls of yourself and others who might be tempted to do what you did," he told McMahon.
Judge Haesler continued the two-year prison sentence but reduced the non-parole period to 12 months, so McMahon can be released in September 2021.
McMahon, wearing glasses, prison greens and sporting a short grey beard, remained silent during the hearing.
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