NEWS
03/31/2016 15:45 EDT | Updated 04/01/2017 01:12 EDT

Victoria arsonist Daniel Charles Sutherland declared dangerous offender

A Victoria arsonist with a quarter-century history of setting fire to facilities that dare to house him has been sent to jail for an indeterminate period of time as a dangerous offender.

According to a provincial court ruling, Daniel Charles Sutherland has 90 convictions dating back to 1991 — six of them for arson.

He has set fires in hotel, in homes and hospitals designated to support the mentally ill and in prisons. His latest offence saw him set fire in 2014 to toilet paper heaped on his bed in the Seven Oaks community facility.

Two staff members and six other residents were evacuated. One of the staff suffered smoke inhalation and another lost work due to stress; months after the fire, two patients were still dealing with heightened anxieties.

'Likelihood of injury or death to others'

Despite years worth of damage, Sutherland argued that "his pattern of setting fires does not create likelihood of death, injury or severe psychological damage."

But Judge Carmen Rogers found that was just a matter of luck.

"The fact that to date no one has been seriously injured by his fire setting is nothing more than good fortune and cannot be relied on to avoid a finding that his conduct in fire-setting creates a likelihood of injury or death to others," she wrote.

The decision paints a picture of both a troubled offender and a system which has struggled for years to contain his potential for damage.

Clinical psychologist Will Reimer interviewed Sutherland for three hours; he found him to be mildly cognitively impaired with a severe personality order.

Sutherland meets the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia but was not found to be a pyromaniac.

"He does not appear to gain a sense of pleasure or have a fascination about the fire itself," Reimer wrote.

"He uses the fire-setting as a means to an end."

But the psychologist concluded Sutherland is indifferent to the impact of his fires on others.

'He does what he pleases'

Sutherland's first arson conviction involved a fire at a Langford hotel in 1992.

In 2005, he was convicted of setting his first fire at Seven Oaks. And then a year later, he lit a fire on his mattress at a residence for the mentally ill, potentially threatening 20 individuals.

Prior to his most recent offence, Sutherland was convicted of setting fire to a bed at Royal Jubilee Hospital. The fire caused $50,000 in damage and forced the evacuation of 30 patients.

A dangerous offender declaration requires a pattern of dangerous behaviour, combined with a failure to show any kind of restraint, both of which the judge found applied to Sutherland.

The psychologist said Sutherland was at a high risk to reoffend.

"He does what he pleases, regardless of whether he is under supervision or not and he incurs institutional charges when incarcerated," Reimer wrote.

After making the declaration, the judge found an indeterminate sentence was the only measure that could adequately protect the public.

"Mr. Sutherland has, for almost all of the past 28 years, been on court orders, mental health orders or incarcerated," she wrote. "Nothing has stopped him from setting fires."