Student avoids conviction for Hyde Street fire

Yuji Kubota escaped a conviction despite admitting lighting a fire in Hyde St. Photo / Tim Brown / Otago Daily Times
Yuji Kubota escaped a conviction despite admitting lighting a fire in Hyde St. Photo / Tim Brown / Otago Daily Times

A 19-year-old international student has avoided conviction for starting a nuisance fire in Hyde St, despite admitting lighting the blaze.

Yuji Kubota denied one charge of intentionally damaging a cushion by fire when he appeared in the Dunedin District Court this afternoon.

Judge Kevin Phillips dismissed the police case after defence prosecutor Len Anderson argued the student could not be charged with intentional damage as what he set fire to was discarded rubbish and not someone's property.

The fire was lit in the early hours of March 20, following the Hyde St keg party.

Kubota drunkenly set fire to what was argued in court to be a cushion, before he and his two friends added further rubbish to the fire sparking a Fire Service call-out.

Police were called soon after.

Kubota admitted to attending police officers that "I lit the piece of furniture on fire'', the court heard.

He then showed one of the officers the lighter he used.

Police obtained CCTV footage showing Kubota starting the blaze and then he and his friends added further rubbish to it.

However, when questioned by Anderson, witness Constable Jonathan Bentley had to concede what was set fire to was possibly discarded rubbish and not owned by anyone.

Police prosecutor Tim Hambleton told the judge police had not received any complaints that any of items used in the fire were missing.

Following legal argument from Anderson, Hambleton conceded "the police case is stuffed''.

Kubota was originally charged by arresting officers with criminal nuisance. A further charge of intentional damage with reckless disregard for safety was laid with the court.

That was amended to intentional damage and the charge of criminal nuisance was withdrawn.

Two other men were charged in relation to the fire.

One, also represented by Mr Anderson, had the charges withdrawn.

The other was granted judicial diversion and had to pay the Fire Service $750 and complete 80 hours' community work.

Judge Phillips told the court: "There is no case to answer and the charge is dimissed''.

"Mr Kubota, you get no credit from me for your actions that night. You are free to go, however.''

Outside, Kubota said he was "stoked'' with the outcome.

"My best friend's mum is a lawyer too and she suggested [Mr Anderson] to me,'' he said.

He was sorry for his behaviour and was not drinking as much now.

"Me and my friends were really, really drunk that night and we were really, really cold.''

- Otago Daily Times

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