Brendan Piccini is accused of lighting nine fires in the Tweed and then responding to them as part of the Burringbar Rural Service.
Brendan Piccini is accused of lighting nine fires in the Tweed and then responding to them as part of the Burringbar Rural Service.

Teen firey's dashcam captured him lighting blazes: court

THE North Coast teenage rural firefighter accused of lighting nine fires was captured on his own dashcam footage starting three of the blazes, a court has heard.

Brendan Piccini appeared by video link from custody in Tweed Heads Local Court on Thursday to apply for bail for a second time.

The 18-year-old allegedly lit fires on the North Coast before helping to put them out as part of his duties as a volunteer firefighter.

The police facts allege Mr Piccini came to the attention of his local Burringbar Rural Fire Service station over fires in the Burringbar and Mooball areas between October 7 and November 3 believed to be deliberately lit.

The apprentice butcher faces nine counts of intentionally causing a fire and being reckless to its spread, and one count of possessing an unauthorised pistol.

Mr Piccini was arrested on November 4 and police facts alleged he made full admissions to setting the fire captured on electronic recording.

Magistrate Michael Dakin found there were new circumstances for another bail application thanks to two psychological reports tendered from 2014 and 2016 revealing Mr Piccini had a previous diagnosis of "some level of cognitive impairment and intellectual disability".

The court heard Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy, who determined Mr Piccini's previous bail application, was not given these reports and instead told Mr Piccini had Autism Spectrum Disorder making him present at mentally younger than his physical age.

Ms Fawaz tendered documents showing the negative impact Mr Piccini's incarceration was having on his 12-year-old brother and his father could hardly work from the stress of the proceedings.

Magistrate Dakin noted Ms Fawaz's submissions were similar to the previous application that Mr Piccini's aunt, father and mother would make sure he was supervised at all time, the fact he had no criminal history, could offer a $10,000 surety and as a vulnerable person he would have difficulty if kept in custody.

She offered the additional bail condition to mitigate the risks would be that Mr Piccini not occupy a driver's seat of a car.

Ms Fawaz said the alleged replica pistol found in Mr Piccini's bedside drawer was a colourful toy and had been painted black and challenged the strength of the prosecution's case.

Police prosecutor Alix Thom submitted the gun was a gel blaster, which had been painted to look realistic, and would scare anyone it was pointed at.

Ms Fawaz indicated the defence's intention to challenge the admissibility of Mr Piccini's recorded interview with police where he allegedly admitted to lighting the fires.

She said, if convicted, Mr Piccini might not be sentenced to a full-time custodial sentence based on his psychological assessment.

Initially Magistrate Dakin said he was minded to grant bail based on the evidence Mr Piccini was a vulnerable person however shock evidence given from the bar table by Ms Thom changed his mind.

Mr Thom said new evidence had come to light since the last bail application including three videos from Mr Piccini's dashcam depicting him getting out of his car and lighting three of the fires.

She submitted there were no conditions which could prevent Mr Piccini's alleged escalation of starting fires which police say went from being weeks apart to days apart before his arrest.

Magistrate Dakin said while he was sympathetic to how devastating the situation was for Mr Piccini's family and Mr Piccini's vulnerability however said the "case against him tends to be approaching the point of overwhelming".

"(The videos) go to the strength of the prosecution case and the number of fires he can be definitively linked to. This is fire after fire after fire in a remote rural location with no respect to their spread," he said.

Mr Piccini's mother began crying and was comforted by his father in the back of the courtroom when Magistrate Dakin denied bail.

Ms Thom said the case would be referred to the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Magistrate Dakin noted Mr Piccini's age and mental state meant he was essentially "in protective custody" while in prison and his family gave Ms Fawaz permission to tender the psychological report for the information of corrective services.

The maximum penalty he faces if convicted is 21 years.

The case will return to court on January 15.


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