20 February 2023

'Bad neighbours' not reason enough to set door on fire, court told

| Albert McKnight
Fire in stairway

Closed-circuit television footage captured Taylor John Jones setting fire to his neighbour’s door. Photo: Screenshot.

When two neighbours got into an argument over the loud bass music emanating from an apartment, one “lost his cool” by setting fire to the other’s door and charged at him with a knife.

Sentencing Taylor John Jones over the incident, Justice David Mossop remarked that “having bad neighbours can be awful”.

“However, the law does not recognise arson as a solution to having bad neighbours,” he said.

Jones became frustrated when he heard the music in his neighbour’s upstairs apartment in Reid around 1 pm on 4 September 2022.

He walked up the stairs, hammered on his neighbour’s door and said: “Do you mind turning the bass down, or do I need to report you again?”, closed-circuit television footage screened in the ACT Supreme Court showed.

Jones and the neighbour quickly started swearing and yelling at each other, before he walked away then returned carrying a large brown staffy-like dog and yelling comments like: “You wanna f-king fight me” and “I’m not a junkie, I work”.

The neighbour appeared to threaten to kill him and his dog and they continued to swear at and threaten each other before Jones left again.

He returned, yelling, to his neighbour’s apartment a second time, where he stabbed an aerosol can with a knife, ignited the aerosol with a lighter, set the door on fire and screamed: “I need sleep”.

He inadvertently set his pant leg on fire while he was doing so.

Jones was walking away when the neighbour started to chase him holding a water bottle, so he turned around, screamed :”Back the f-k up”. He charged the neighbour while holding the knife and slashed towards his legs, but missed him.

The pair separated and police arrived to find scorch marks on the exterior and interior of the neighbour’s doorwell.

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Jones pleaded guilty to charges of arson, assault and possessing an offensive weapon with intent before appearing in court for sentencing on Thursday (16 February), where Justice Mossop observed he had “lost his cool” during the incident.

Jones took the stand to testify himself. He said the apartment complex was a “horrible” place where he suffered from thefts and claimed his neighbour had “always tried to intimidate” him, but said he’d tried to find solutions with those at the complex who he had disagreements with.

Jones owned three dogs at the time. In the courtroom, he wiped away tears when talking about how he had to rehome them after he was arrested due to the new housing situation he found himself in as bail conditions prevented him returning to the complex.

“It might seem wrong to everyone else, but I can’t begin to express the amount of hurt and pain that I’ve got from the loss of my animals,” he said.

Taylor John Jones

Taylor John Jones, 28, was at the ACT courts for his sentencing. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor James Melloy, he admitted he had chosen to take the matter into his own hands that afternoon in September.

But Legal Aid’s Edward Chen said his client had been “crying out for help” with his living situation after being forced to reside somewhere he didn’t feel safe and it was difficult to say what else he could have done to resolve the issues, having already contacted authorities.

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Justice Mossop said Jones had major depression at the time and experienced a “toxic” environment at the apartment complex, which he had tried to leave.

The justice said the offending was a result of him attempting to address unreasonable behaviour and he had been “at the end of his tether”.

Jones had already spent 17 days in custody over his charges. He was convicted and sentenced to 57 days’ jail suspended after he served 17, which means he did not have to return to custody.

He was also handed a six-month good behaviour order.

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