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Arsonist has turned life around, says defence lawyer

Arsonist 'turns life around'

The man accused of setting fire to a Lake Country home in September 2018 while intoxicated is now on the path of sobriety and turning his life around for the sake of his new daughter, says his defence lawyer. 

Matthew Hanson appeared in court Monday convicted of arson related to an inhabited property, referring to the events of Sept. 9, 2018, when Hanson set fire to a family home containing five people who were sleeping. 

Homeowner David Yerema woke to the smell of smoke and his wife's screams just before 7 a.m. that day, and says his family is still recovering from the traumatic incident. 

Crown prosecutor David Ruse has argued Justice Steven Wilson jail for three to five years. 

Defence lawyer Ben Lynskey continued his submissions Monday, asking Judge Wilson to grant Hanson a three year period of supervision with strict conditions instead of imposing jail time.

Hanson has made tangible steps towards living a life free of addiction and crime, exhibiting significant changes in behaviour in recent months, says Lynskey.

Motivated by the birth of his seven-month old daughter, Hanson has secured full-time employment for a Kelowna drywalling company, remained sober for 20 months and found trusted mentors he can confide in. 

Hanson now wakes up in the morning and prays, lists the things he is grateful for, pursued recovery with VisionQuest Recovery Society and has committed to online support programmes in replacement of AA meetings cancelled by the pandemic.

"These are not the types of things that a person could marshal on their behalf if they hadn't really taken the steps to turn their life around ... tangible evidence, concrete steps that he's taken. He's had goals, he's achieved those goals, he's moved onto new goals, and moved forward.

"His number one goal is supporting his daughter, and tied into that is maintaining sobriety," says Lynskey. 

Lynskey also presented to Judge Wilson the assertion that, although Hanson pleaded guilty to setting the fire, the act was not defined by the same level of intentionality found in previous cases presented to the court by Crown.

Hanson, who was highly intoxicated at the time of the offence, did not bring a gas can onto the property with him and can be seen on surveillance footage checking car door handles and rummaging through the fridge, which Lynskey suggested implies he was more concerned with finding things to steal. 

"There's no planning or deliberation. The materials for this fire are found at the scene. This was drug-motivated behaviour. There's no financial motive here, there's not a targeted or revenge motive.

"It was not pre-meditated in any way ... it was an impulsive, spontaneous action."

Defence expected to complete sentencing submissions Monday. 



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