A woman accused of trying to burn down a central Dunedin hotel has been cleared without the jury even needing to deliberate.

Angela Marie Robertson was on trial before the a Dunedin District Court this week after pleading not guilty to charges of arson and attempted arson.

But once the Crown's final witness had given evidence, Judge Michael Crosbie dismissed the charges.

Under the Criminal Procedure Act, a judge may do so if they are satisfied a properly directed jury could not reasonably convict the defendant on the evidence it had heard.


Robertson spent the night at the Leviathan Hotel on August 28, 2018 and only minutes after she left the following morning, staff found both a couch and a printer alight.

A later inspection of the defendant's room found a bunk-bed had been moved in front of a fan heater and a bed-sheet been placed close to it.

Crown prosecutor Craig Power told the jury that had been deliberately set up by Robertson in a bid to create a significant blaze at the premises.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens QC, however, argued her client had become the prime suspect not because the evidence pointed to her but because she had an unusual demeanour.

"The defence says there's nothing about being a bit weird that makes someone an arsonist — that's called prejudice," she said.

Hotel night porter Allan Nisbet, who checked Robertson in, limited her stay to one night because he was suspicious of her.

"Angela was just weird. She was bubbly in a weird way. I thought she was on something. I didn't really trust her and she seemed over-friendly, which made me cautious," he said.

Under cross-examination, Mr Nisbet accepted he may have described Robertson to colleagues as ''a nut-case''.


While the defendant was repeatedly denied more than one night's stay at the hotel, all witnesses agreed she took the decision without irritation.

Mrs Stevens said Robertson therefore had no motive to commit the arsons.

She also had no lighter, the lawyer said.

A taxi driver who took the defendant to the hotel told the court he had to light her cigarette when they smoked together.