Man jailed after setting fire to bed in flat complex

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

An east Belfast man who set fire to his bed in a flat complex was jailed for two years on Friday.

Michael Scott Paul (33), of Beersbridge Road, pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life when he started the fire in his Beersbridge Road flat last year.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of causing criminal damage to a Mercedes Benz car.

Prosecution lawyer Mark Farrell told Belfast Crown that in the first incident police received a report around 10.30 pm on September 9, 2017 that the Mercedes car had been damaged at a house in Belfast.

The repair bill for the damage to the body work, window and mirror was almost £2,000, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC heard.

About an hour later, fire crews were alerted to a fire at a flat complex belonging to Radius Housing on the Beersbridge Road after a witness saw black smoke coming out of it.

“Fire crews attended and the fire was put out very quickly,’’ said Mr Farrell. “Other people in the building were evacuated as a precaution.’’

The court was told that the scene was examined by investigators who said the fire had been started on the mattres of the bed but no accelerant had been used.

Mr Farrell said that shortly before midnight, police were contacted by the defendant from a petrol station on the Newtownards Road and said he had “started the fire in his flat’’.

“He told police that if they didn’t come and arrest him he would “kill someone’.’’

In what was described as a “cock and bull story’’, Paul told police at interview that he didn’t start the fire and blamed others for the deliberate attack.

The judge heard that the fire caused over £11,000 worth of damage to the flat and a further loss of £2,300 in lost rent to Radius Housing.

Defence barrister Barry Gibson said Scott had a history of mental health issues linked to abuse of drugs.

He told the court that he was on medication and reduced his dosage by 150 mg as he was feeling “restless”.

Mr Gibson said Scott also took some Valium before “consuming seven Xanax prescription tablets’’.

The defence barrister added that Scott was now “remorseful for his actions”.

Judge Miller said Paul had 43 previous convictions for a range of offences including robbery, serious assault, public order offences and drugs.

He told the court that Paul had lit the fire, left the building and waited 20 minutes before contacting police.

“Mercifully, by this time the alarms were activated and the fire was quickly put out.”

Sentencing Paul to four years, Judge Miller said the defendant would serve two years in custody and a further two years on supervised licence on his release from prison.