Clifford Phillip Appellant v The Queen Respondent [ECSC]

JurisdictionCaribbean States
CourtEastern Caribbean Supreme Court
Judgment Date06 Sep 1972
Neutral Citation[1972] ECSC J0906-1
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No. 2 of 1972
[1972] ECSC J0906-1



The Honourable the Ag. Chief Justice

The Honourable Mr. Justice St. Bernard

The Honourable Mr. Justice Louisy (Ag.)

Criminal Appeal No. 2 of 1972

Clifford Phillip
The Queen

D. Knight and E. De Freitas for the Appellant

D. Lambert for the Respondent

The judgment of the Court was delivered by –

The appellant was convicted on the 21st June, 1972 of arson contrary to section 264 of the Criminal Code. He was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment at hard labour. The facts show that on the 4th of September, 1971, the appellant who was the owner of a small dwelling house at Content in the parish of Saint David, set fire to the said dwelling house which was completely destroyed. He had lived in the house for some time up to August 1971 was his common law wife and 3 children. She left him for a few weeks to visit her sick mother, and on the 4th September, 1971 he went to work and returned home at about 3.30 p.m. He went to one Centillia Mathlin and told her that she could take anything she wanted from inside the house. He stated that he was going to hang himself. She replied she did not want anything. He visited his sister-in-law, Cathrine Francis and offered to sell the house to her for $100. She refused the offer. Then a little later he returned to her and said he was going to burn the house and hang himself. He left, went home, and returned inabout 10 minutes with a box of matches and soon after the persons in the area saw the house on fire. Eventually the house was completely destroyed. He said "I light it long ago and I burning it flat".


The question which falls to be determined in this appeal is whether or not the appellant can be convicted for setting fire to his own dwelling house without any proof of an intention to injure or defraud any person. The section under which he is charged states that the act of setting fire must be intentional and unlawful. There is no doubt on the evidence that the act was intentional but in order to convict the appellant the act must also be unlawful. Is it unlawful to burn one's own building without any intention to injure or defraud another? In defining the word 'unlawful' the learned trial judge in his direction to the jury stated—

"Whoever intentionally and unlawfully causes any dwelling house to be set on fire commits an offence so that what you have to decide after analysing the evidence and...

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