In a rare move, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown says it may ask to have a youth sentenced as an adult if he's convicted for setting a fire in St. John's several months ago.

The 16-year-old was charged with manslaughter and arson after a man died in a fire on Springdale Street on Nov. 27.

In court on Friday, Crown attorneys Dana Sullivan and Jennifer Colford gave notice that they might seek to have him sentenced as an adult.

Peter Ralph is the accused teenager’s lawyer.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Ralph said. "I'm a little bit surprised given the offence and the circumstances."

As an adult, the accused could be sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter. The maximum sentence for a youth convicted of manslaughter is three years.

For arson, an adult could be sentenced to several years in prison. For a youth, the limit for that conviction is two years.

The Crown attorneys said they might seek the adult sentences because of seriousness of the offences.

But by making the move, it has allowed the defence to take the case out of youth court and given it the option of choosing a jury trial with a preliminary hearing.

"If we have a trial before a youth court judge, we wouldn't have that opportunity," Ralph said. "We would basically be hearing witnesses at trial for the first time. And that is the primary advantage of having a preliminary inquiry, is that you get to hear from the witnesses before they testify at trial."

The teen’s preliminary inquiry is set to begin in May.