Arsonist’s life ‘centred on drink, drugs’

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A West Belfast man whose life “revolves around drink and drugs” has been jailed for arson at a block of flats.

Belfast Crown Court heard that the damage caused to the Dunlop House complex in east Belfast amounted to £200,000 plus VAT.

Gerard Anthony McCrory - who prior to starting the fire told a resident he was going to burn her flat - was handed a four-year sentence today after he admitted a single charge of arson endangering life.

The 33-year old, from Laurelbank in Poleglass, was informed he will serve two years in prison, with the remaining two years on licence after release. The court heard that police and the Fire Service were called to Dunlop House, which is owned by Helm Housing, at around 2.45am on October 3, 2015, following reports that a man was smashing windows at the complex. When the emergency services arrived, the fire was underway.

It emerged that before a fire was started at one of the flats, MrCrory had been visiting a relative at Dunlop House where he had been drinking and taking drugs with her and others. At some point, McCrory got into an angry exchange with a female resident, telling her he was going to burn her flat.

A Crown prosecutor said there was a lack of clarity about how the fire started. Judge McCaffrey said that McCrory’s claim to a probation officer that he set off the fire alarm to alert other residents showed “some awareness of the possible consequences of his actions”.

However, the judge also spoke of the inconvenience caused to the residents who had to be evacuated “in the small hours of the morning”.

Judge McCaffrey said that while she accepted he had a “difficult and unstable” childhood, his adult life “revolves around drink and drugs and your addiction to them”.

He was told that his licence conditions would recommend he be banned from both drinking and illegal drugs upon his release.