Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Homeless man lit bushfire, court told

Homeless man Paul Cahoon charged, appears in Shepparton Magistrates' Court.

FIONA BROOM December 12, 2012 4:44am

A homeless man lit a fire in Mooroopna bushland on Monday night to bring attention to homelessness, a court heard yesterday.

Paul Cahoon, 48, of no fixed address, has lived on the streets of the Goulburn Valley for years, Shepparton Magistrates’ Court heard.

‘‘It’s a sad situation,’’ barrister Brian Birrell said.

‘‘He sleeps wherever he can find a place — in the (Maude St) mall, here, there and everywhere.’’

Mr Cahoon was appearing in court charged with causing a fire in a country area with intent to cause damage and lighting a fire in open air during a fire danger period. Mr Birrell said his client had nowhere to go and was unable to make an application for bail as he had no family or friends he could stay with.

The court heard custody might be a better alternative for the 48-year-old than living in the bush.

‘‘I say with some reluctance at least he’ll have a bed ... at least he’ll get three feeds a day and somewhere to sleep,’’ Mr Birrell said.

The court heard Mr Cahoon made full admissions to police when he was arrested on Monday night, telling them he was not sure what he was going to do next as he wanted to draw attention to the homeless. Magistrate Simon Garnett said on that basis Mr Cahoon, an alcoholic, would need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

He also said it was probably best Mr Cahoon was not living in the open during the fire season.

Mr Birrell said while the incident was a very serious set of circumstances, his client had no criminal history, except for when he was before the courts seven days earlier after breaking some windows while drunk.

The fire started about 12.30am near Chinaman’s Gardens, between Midland Hwy and the Goulburn River.

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