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Conviction Quashed For Man Who Set Girlfriend Alight

A Queensland man jailed for setting his girlfriend alight outside their home has been given a retrial and had his conviction set aside.

Kyesha Finemore was just 17 when she was doused in petrol and set alight by her then-boyfriend Brae Lewis outside their home, leaving her in a coma.

The pair, who the court was told had a relationship "marked by frequent verbal abuse, regular outbursts of aggression and, on occasion, actual violence" had allegedly gotten into an argument over a mobile phone when it "escalated".

A court heard Lewis, who had been working on a vehicle at the time, threw petrol from a bottle onto Finemore while holding a lighter in his other hand.

Finemore was left in a coma after suffering burns to around a fifth of her body.

During the trial, Finemore told the court she didn't see what was in Lewis' left hand until she saw the flame and saw a fire building up in front of her.

"I watched it build up and it just went straight up in my face," court documents quote Finemore as saying.

Finemore allegedly suffered burns to more than 20 percent of her body and was forced to endure multiple surgeries as a result of the alleged 2016 incident.

Lewis who was also 17 at the time of the incident, was last year sentenced to 11 years behind bars,  after being found guilty of grievous bodily harm with intent.

But on Tuesday, Lewis won his appeal and has now had his conviction set aside and a retrial ordered after a Queensland Supreme Court found there was a "miscarriage of justice" during his trial.

Justice Martin Burns described the summing up at trial as "inadequate" and said the jury had not been given adequate or explicit directions when tasked with determining whether Lewis was guilty, in a case that was based wholly on circumstantial evidence.

Burns explained that the jury must have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had "intended" to cause grievous bodily harm when he threw the petrol on Finemore and allegedly set her alight.

That intent, according to the justice, could only be proven by taking into consideration all of the surrounding circumstances, including what the accused said and did before, during and after the incident.

Burns drew on evidence from the trial which heard conflicting statements from Finemore about whether she believed Lewis meant to set her alight at the time.

Burns added that while the jury could have found that Lewis did have intent, they were also open to find that he had only meant to "frighten the complainant into leave [him] alone."

He said that unless the jury had been satisfied that the latter hypothesis was excluded beyond reasonable doubt, they had a duty to acquit Lewis, adding that this should have been explicitly explained to the jury prior to them making their decision, but was not.

"Given the significance of the issue to the appellant’s chance of acquittal, the inadequacy of the summing up in the respects identified led to a miscarriage of justice and, on that account, the conviction ...  must be quashed and a retrial on that count must be ordered," Burns said.

No date for a retrial has been set.

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