Deadly bushfire charges dropped

CHARGES against two Victorian teenagers accused of lighting a fatal bushfire on Black Saturday have been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The boys, aged 15 and 16, were accused of deliberately starting a bushfire at Bendigo in February 2009 that claimed the life of 47-year-old Long Gully man, Kevin ”Mick” Kane.

The blaze, which started at the Bendigo suburb of Maiden Gully, destroyed 58 homes, burned 341 hectares and caused $23.5 million damage.

A jury found the pair unfit to stand trial in August after being satisfied they both suffered mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.

Psychologists testified that the boys were of abnormally low intelligence and were not capable of understanding a trial, or properly instructing their lawyers.

Had the case proceeded, it would have involved a special hearing to determine whether they had committed the crime. They would not have been required to enter pleas on the charges they faced – arson causing death and intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire.

But Crown Prosecutor Steven Milesi told the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday that the DPP did not wish to continue the case due to insufficient evidence and on the basis it was not in the public interest to proceed.

The pair were subsequently discharged by Justice Paul Coghlan.

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