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West Kelowna man arrested, charged with arson

36-year-old Stephen Leader was taken into custody this morning, West Kelowna RCMP say

UPDATE: 2:50 p.m.

After Kelowna-West MLA Ben Stewart issued a statement asking for those facing serious charges to be detained until the charge assessment is complete, the man who prompted Steward to speak out has been arrested.

Stephen Leader, 36, is now facing a charge of arson.

On July 10, at around 8:30 p.m., Leader was seen by Glenrosa residents as he moved through the wooded area of the neighbourhood. A resident’s video footage shows the man setting a fire in the area.

Residents called the police and helped identify the alleged arson suspect by his vehicle.

Leader was released after he was first taken into police custody with no charges.

“(Leader) is being brought before the BC Provincial Court this afternoon in relation to this matter,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said in a statement.

No more information will be released, she added.

A man spotted allegedly trying to set fire to a wooded area near West Kelowna’s Glenrosa neighbourhood has not yet been charged and remains out of custody.

Video taken July 10 and posted to social media appears to show a shirtless man lighting an object on fire and tossing it into the woods near Webber Road before fleeing on foot. Residents of the area acted quickly and extinguished the fire before it got out of hand.

The RCMP has completed its investigation into the matter and the file is now in the hands of the B.C. Prosecution Service for charge approval.

READ MORE: Shirtless man arrested for allegedly starting fire in West Kelowna woods

But that doesn’t leave residents feeling any safer for the time being. The suspect was released on conditions the morning after his arrest, prompting Kelowna-West MLA Ben Stewart to write a letter to B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth calling for people facing serious charges to be detained until charge assessment is complete.

“It’s bad enough when they (wildfires) are caused by thunderstorms and lightening (sic), but it is even more upsetting when it’s caused by negligence or stupidity…and it’s completely outrageous when it appears people are deliberately trying to start fires,” he wrote.

Stewart says there needs to be a balance between public safety and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, “but I also believe the public has right to be protected from serious criminal conduct…especially where the evidence is so compelling, and the potential consequence to law-abiding citizens is so severe.”


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