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Volunteer firefighter did not mention arson conviction

By Cullen Smith

Photo / File / Wayne Drought
Photo / File / Wayne Drought

A volunteer firefighter failed to mention his conviction for arson when he applied for duty with a rural fire force.

Logan Scott Handy was pictured on the front page of The Press newspaper yesterday battling a large scrub fire near Swannanoa in North Canterbury.

Mr Handy, a member of the Swannanoa Rural Fire Force, was shown hosing down the embers of a suspicious blaze that burnt through a hectare of scrub on Monday before it was brought under control by fire crews from around the Waimakariri district. Children are believed to have started the fire.

Waimakariri District Council principal rural fire officer Tim Sheppard said Handy was a newcomer to the Swannanoa fire force and had been a volunteer for "a couple of months".

Mr Sheppard said the newspaper photograph was "an unfortunate circumstance" that prompted calls to his office yesterday.

Asked if he was aware of Handy's background and conviction for arson Mr Sheppard declined to comment.

He referred any further questions to council chief executive Jim Palmer.

Mr Palmer was unavailable for comment.

Contacted at his work yesterday afternoon, Handy said he hadn't disclosed his conviction when he joined the fire force.

"It didn't come up," he told The Star. "I didn't think it was necessary to tell anyone."

Asked if he thought a previous arson conviction might have relevance to his firefighting ambitions, Handy said: "People change. And I've changed.

"It's a long time ago. What business is it of yours? I'm not talking to you anymore."

He then ended the phone call.

Handy, then aged 19, was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court in August 2007 to two years' jail on two charges of unlawful sexual connection, burglary, theft of a vehicle and arson.

He had been found guilty at a jury trial on the sex charges, which involved a 14-year-old schoolgirl, and admitted the others.

The arson charge related to stealing a truck valued at $30,000 from his employer and torching it at the Ashley riverbed.

Judge Crosbie noted two earlier convictions for indecent assault on a girl aged under 12 and two for theft. He granted Handy leave to apply for home detention.

In a Facebook post, Handy said he was born in the United States but has "lived as a Kiwi most of my life.

He also said he was a volunteer with the Waimakariri-Ashley Coastguard based in Kaiapoi.

"There's no better feeling than when you've just saved a person's life."

A Fire Service spokeswoman said volunteer rural firefighters were engaged by district councils and were not the responsibility of the service.

But she said Fire Service recruits were routinely vetted by police and it would not be appropriate to employ anyone with an arson conviction.

- CHRISTCHURCH STAR

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