2020-12-16

King Street arsonist granted day parole

by KEITH CORCORAN

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>A section of Bridgewater&#8217;s downtown core went up in flames on October 22, 2017.</p>

The Queens County man who started an inferno devastating a section of Bridgewater's downtown in October 2017 will be free on day parole.

In a decision released in early December, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) granted Adrian Thomas Hunt, of Greenfield, six months of conditional release but denied him full parole.

Hunt, who'd served nearly two years of a five-year prison sentence for arson - disregard for human life, will be staying in a halfway house when bed space is available. He'll be subject to conditions, such as staying away from victims, and people he knows or believes is involved in criminal activity. He also must avoid alcohol and drugs.

The PBC, in a written decision, believes Hunt doesn't present an undue risk with day parole, and the measure facilitates his reintegration into society. He'll be monitored at the community-based residential facility, and his focus on job skill improvement during his sentence yielded "decent" prospects for employment. The location of the halfway house was not released but report suggests it's in a place "unfamiliar" to Hunt.

The PBC "is satisfied that you are making progress in your correctional plan, and that you have made measurable and observable change during this sentence," reads a portion of the eight-page decision. "Other protective factors include positive community support, through pro-social friends and your own family."

Full parole was denied for now, as the PBC balked at Hunt's plan to live in a home on property owned by close friends, which the federal agency said involves "a greatly reduced level of supervision." The PBC said Hunt hasn't been forthcoming with information about the arson offence that landed him in prison and also smoked cigarettes while locked-up, a big no-no in prison. Both circumstances, the PBC wrote, "demonstrates a willingness ... to flout the rules simply because, as you said, you like smoking and are stubborn."

The PBC said Hunt requires "a period of stability in the community during which time you can gain credibility by demonstrating your willingness to abide by your parole conditions" something the agency believes is "necessary before a more liberal form of release would be appropriate."

Hunt went inside a King Street business the night of October 22, 2017 and set pieces of paper on fire and tossed them around inside. He left the site shortly before smoke started billowing out of the building.

Bridgewater volunteer firefighters were summoned at around 10:30 p.m. but the severity of the incident required about a dozen fire departments, including ones from as far away as Chester and Liverpool.

The fire spread to spread to multiple buildings, including three residential apartments and seven businesses - all of which were destroyed. A neighbouring restaurant was also damaged. A resident of one of the apartments, who was home at the time of blaze, lost three cats.

Insurance firms retained by property ownership, collectively, claimed losses over $1.4 million, and the Town of Bridgewater tallied losses over $11,000 in value.

Hunt was arrested in January 2018, after several tipsters identified him in a video surveillance clip the police shared with the public. After initially denying any involvement, Hunt admitted to starting the fire but wouldn't say why. He again declined to reveal his reasons when a provincial court judge asked him the same question during sentencing in February 2019. Hunt pleaded guilty in November 2018.

The PBC wrote Hunt, now 27, has since claimed he was "blackout drunk" due to the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of the incident.

"This stands in contrast to the comments you made to the sentencing judge and elsewhere in your file, which suggest that there may have been bigger issues at play and that you may have set the fire at the behest of another party," the PBC decision reads.

"As was anticipated by the [PBC], and apparent at your hearing, you are not going to budge on this point, and you refuse to say anything further about what motivated you to start the fire."

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