Man jailed for arson attack at home of ex-partner and children

A north Belfast man who forced his ex-partner and two children to flee their home after setting her car and house on fire in an early morning arson attack has been given a three-year sentence.

Steven Colhoun, 45, was also handed a five-year restraining order to keep him away from his former partner of 24 years.

During sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, Judge David McFarland said that while he accepted Colhoun’s intention was just to set the car on fire, the father of two “must have known there was going to be a significant fire” which then spread to the house.

Colhoun, from Glandor Avenue, was charged with two counts of arson on April 23, and of conducting a course of harassment against his ex over a three-month period from January to April. He was also charged with drink driving on April 23, and admitted all the offences.

Colhoun brought a cannister of accelerant to the scene, and poured petrol over her car which he then set alight.

The blaze quickly spread to the house, which forced the female occupant and her two children, aged 15 and seven, to flee. The fire service was called, and Colhoun was arrested at the scene.

Judge McFarland noted that it was fortunate that the fire didn’t spread to the property’s gas supply, which he said would have led to “catastrophic damage and physical injuries”.

Other residents had to evacuate their homes while the blaze was dealt with. The damage to the property is estimated to be in the region of £130,000, while the car was destroyed.

Colhoun’s former partner and two children have not yet been able to return home and are currently living in temporary accommodation.

Defence barrister Jonathan Browne pointed out that as soon as he was arrested, Colhoun made full and frank admissions, co-operated with police, and expressed immediate remorse.

Telling the court Colhoun was an alcoholic with drugs issues, the barrister said his client’s time on remand has allowed him to reflect on matters, and start to address his addictions.

Mr Browne said Colhoun has been left “shocked and appalled” by his actions, which were carried out after he had consumed drink and drugs.

Sentencing Colhoun and telling him he will serve half his sentence in custody and half on licence, Judge McFarland told him: “Clearly this was extremely reckless conduct on your part.”

Noting this was Colhoun’s fifth offence for drink driving, the judge banned him from driving for three years.