A DRUNKEN arsonist who left a blazing Liverpool FC shirt hanging on a neighbour’s front door handle in a block of flats has been spared immediate jail.
Burnley Crown Court heard how Neil Wood appeared to have no motive for what he had done. He could not remember doing it, but accepted the evidence showed nobody else could have done it and it must have been him.
The defendant, who has 13 offences on his record dating back to 1987, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered last September. Wood (39), of Southfield Street, Nelson, was given 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, with supervision and the addressing substance related offending programme.
Judge Jonathan Gibson told him fires in blocks of flats, if they took hold, could endanger many people. He added: “It’s plain to me that drink is a major factor and has been in all your offending.”
Mr James Heyworth (prosecuting) said the offence took place at Clover Hill House, Nelson, which had 10 flats.
A resident was watching TV when he heard Wood’s flat door open. He went out and saw the defendant running up the stairs. A Liverpool shirt was on fire and was hanging on the door handle of the flat where a man named Jason Metcalfe lived. The witness grabbed the shirt and stamped on it to put out the flames. The door was left scorched.
Mr Heyworth said Wood returned to his flat not long after. He denied he had set fire to the shirt and claimed he had only gone out to buy some butter. Police were called, Wood was drunk, was arrested, interviewed and denied the arson.
Mr Richard Taylor, for Wood, said he maintained he had no recollection of the offence. At certain stages in his life, he had difficulty coping and dealing with problems that arose. He appeared to deal with them in inappropriate ways, often involving alcohol and unfortunately, on occasion, in a criminal way.
Since the offence, his behaviour had been exemplary. He had been on bail with a night-time curfew. The defendant’s family was supportive of him and the defendant was proud of the fact that he maintained he had stopped drinking since the offence.
The solicitor added:”It appears to be motiveless. There doesn’t appear to be any pre-planning and no accelerant was used. Thankfully, there were no injuries and minimal damage. The defendant accepts this type of offence crosses the custody threshold. But it is also clear he is a defendant in dire need of assistance.”