Arson is when someone deliberately sets fire to someone else’s property to damage it or to injure people.

The maximum penalty for anyone found guilty of arson is imprisonment for life. This is because of the exceptional danger involved. Victims may lose all their property, be made homeless, injured, or suffer a very painful death. Even if nobody is physically hurt, you may still have to cope with financial damage.

Arson can affect anyone, as criminals may target any property to damage.

Unused, derelict, isolated or unoccupied buildings may be at a higher risk of arson (as it’s less likely someone will be around to notice a fire and report it).

Criminals who commit arson may do so for many reasons, including:

  • vandalism, where property may be damaged for fun, excitement or due to boredom
  • revenge, where the criminal often knows the property owner and causes damage due to jealousy, hate, arguments, or real or imagined wrongs or slights
  • hate, for example setting fire to places of worship
  • insurance claims, when arson may be committed by the property owner in an attempt to claim the insurance money on their destroyed buildings and/or contents.

The impact of arson isn’t just financial. It can significantly affect your emotional wellbeing and sense of security.

Your home or other building may have been damaged or lost by the fire, and you may have lost treasured possessions and sentimental items that can’t be replaced.

You may feel stressed or anxious with the upheaval of moving out or leaving the home, finding new or temporary accommodation, fixing any damage, and the loss of personal items.

You may feel fearful, shock, or you may feel numb. You may feel unsafe or be afraid of arson happening again.

Everyone will respond differently but however you feel, remember it’s not your fault. Only the offender is to blame and nobody has the right to destroy your property or possessions.

If you need help to cope with the impact of arson, please get in touch with us.

If you’ve been a victim of crime, you’ll need to decide whether or not to tell the police. If you’re unsure, we have more information about reporting a crime and what happens afterwards.

Remember, we can support you whether you decide to involve the police or not.

If you choose to report a crime, you can do this in several ways:

  • If it’s an emergency and arson or criminal damage is happening now, call 999 and ask for the police.
  • If it’s not an emergency you can report arson to the police by calling 101. You can also go to your local police station to report the crime there.
  • If you want to report the crime anonymously you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or report online.

Here are a few things you can do, and precautions you can take, which may reduce the likelihood of arson taking place:

  • Wheelie bins can be an easy target for arsonists. If it’s not your refuse collection day, put the bin away. Try to keep bins in a secure place away from doors and windows if possible.
  • If you have communal bins, try to make sure the area is well lit and secure.
  • Rubbish can be used criminals to start fires. Try not to store rubbish near your property, or in places such as stairwells or near fire escapes, which could be a fire hazard and could block an escape route if there’s a fire.
  • Keep other sources of ‘fuel’ away from properties, such as firewood, leaves and other garden materials.
  • Store flammable materials and substances securely and out of sight.
  • If you’ve been using a skip near the building or property, have it removed when it’s full.
  • Consider using security systems or equipment such as CCTV, alarms and motion-sensor lighting.
  • If you own or are responsible for an unused or derelict building, ensure it’s boarded up or secured.
  • Report fly tipping in your community to your local council so they can collect it.

If you’ve been affected by arson, there are some things you can do to help prevent further attacks:

  • If your property has been damaged, it’s a good idea to get it repaired quickly if you can. Vandalised property can attract people who might cause more damage.
  • Keep a record of all events you think are related to the arson attack or any subsequent criminal damage or harassment. Note as much detail as possible, including the date and time of incidents.
  • If possible, try to get photographic or video evidence. But only do this carefully and without putting yourself at risk. Some offenders could react violently to being photographed or filmed.
  • Look at your home security and upgrade it if necessary. Contact us and we might be able to help you arrange that.

You may be able to apply for compensation if you’ve been injured because of a violent crime.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is funded by the government. It’s run by an agency called the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

You have two years to apply, and the crime has to be reported to the police.

Find out more about compensation, and if you’re eligible and how to claim.

If your injuries aren’t covered by the scheme, the CICA can sometimes make payments for some loss of earnings due to the injury. The Hardship Fund provides temporary financial support to very low paid workers who have to take time off work because they’ve been a victim of violent crime.

When you report a crime to the police, they should automatically ask if you’d like help from an organisation like Victim Support. But anyone affected by crime can contact us directly – you don’t need to talk to the police to get our help.

You can get in touch by:

You can also create a free account on My Support Space – an online resource containing interactive guides to help you manage the impact crime has had on you.

If English is not your first language and you’d like support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak. We’ll call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Relay UK and SignLive (BSL).

Families and friends affected by crime can also contact us for support and information. If you’re a child or young person under 18 and are looking for support, visit our children and young people website for information and tips.