Bay d'Espoir arsonist repeats guilty plea, as sentencing delayed 1 week

The Crown and defence have asked for more time to prepare an agreed statement of facts for the sentencing of a man who set three fires on the south coast of Newfoundland.

'I wanted to say the words myself,' Donald Craig MacHaight told judge

Craig MacHaight has pleaded guilty to three counts of arson. His sentencing hearing has been delayed to provide the defence and Crown lawyers to prepare an agreed statement of facts. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

A man who's admitted to setting three fires on the south coast of Newfoundland told court Wednesday he wanted to personally say "I'm guilty" instead of relying on the plea entered for him by his lawyer in September.

"I wanted to say the words myself," said Donald Craig MacHaight, after asking to speak directly to the judge during a short hearing in provincial court in Grand Falls-Windsor.

"I'd like to say that, yes, I set those fires. And I did so deliberately and no one else was involved. And I'm guilty as charged."

MacHaight said he personally wanted to plead on Sept. 20, when his lawyer entered a guilty plea on his behalf, but the presence of reporters in the courtroom made him uncomfortable.

His sentencing hearing, which was set for Wednesday, was postponed for a week to give the Crown and defence more time to prepare an agreed statement of facts.

MacHaight was charged with three counts of arson after fire damaged community buildings in the Bay d'Espoir region early in the morning of Jan. 17.

Bay d'Espoir Academy was badly burned, and students had to be relocated to another school for the remainder of the school year. The town and fire hall in Milltown-Bay d'Espoir and the region's RCMP detachment were the other targets.

As a result of the fires, artifacts in the town's museum were destroyed. MacHaight was arrested the same day those fires were set, and has remained in custody ever since.

MacHaight is pictured during a court appearance in February. He has been in custody since then. (Julia Cook/CBC)

On Wednesday, MacHaight asked a provincial court judge not to judge him on what he called his "unfortunate appearance."

He also explained that he did not intend to disrespect the court by avoiding the term "your honour" in his interactions with judges, saying he didn't feel like he could "meet that word."

"It's too big, you know. I just can't give it out."

With files from Garrett Barry