Suspended term for man who set fire to estranged wife’s home

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A 35-year-old father of three who may spend the next six years paying for the fire damage he caused to the home of his estranged wife, has been freed on a 12-month suspended jail term.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Francis McCall, who has agreed to compensate the Housing Executive, started the blaze in an apparent “sad and desperate attempt” of getting back with her.

Suspending his sentence for two years, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said he was taking the “extraordinary lenient approach” because McCall, who has already paid £1,000 up front, has agreed to pay for the rest of the damage at £200 per month.

Judge McFarland told McCall, of Altan Grove in Dunmurry, what he did was “an act of stupidity” in which the lives of his wife’s neighbours and firefighters alike could have been placed in danger.

His trial last month, at which he denied arson and being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, heard that £16,500 was spent refurbishing his wife’s Grosvenor Court home in Belfast following the blaze on January 24 last year.

The judge said that in setting fire to the house McCall hoped to stabilise the relationship with his wife and also get his wife and young children further up the housing ladder and into a bigger home.

He also told McCall, while it was clear from the evidence he had deliberately set three seats of fire in the kitchen of the house, he still “continued to maintain your innocence”.

However, it took the jury just an hour and 40 minutes to unanimously convict McCall of torching the house while pretending he’d gone back to retrieve his mobile phone, and later blaming the blaze on two imagined mystery men.