Arsonist jailed for three years

AN ARSONIST who set fire to rubbish bags in the doorway to a flat where a couple and their young baby were sleeping has been jailed for three years.

AN ARSONIST who set fire to rubbish bags in the doorway to a flat where a couple and their young baby were sleeping has been jailed for three years.

Christopher Walsh was caught on CCTV cameras starting the blaze outside Globe News in Colchester, Chelmsford Crown Court heard yesterday.

The 46-year-old, who had been jailed before for arson, was living in nearby St Peter's Street at the time and had been a customer at the Middleborough store.

He admitted reckless arson at an earlier hearing.

Richard Wood, prosecuting, told the court that shortly before midnight on September 5, 2007, the owner, his wife and their ten-month-old baby were asleep in the upstairs flat.

“The defendant was seen on a CCTV camera which was directed towards the front of the shop and he was seen to loiter and then to collect a number of bags full of rubbish and put them outside the front of the shop, in front of a door - which as it happens was the door to the residential area of the premises,” said Mr Wood.

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“CCTV shows the defendant with a cigarette lighter, it is assumed, set fire to the bags of rubbish and walk away.”

Not long afterwards two police officers driving past noticed the fire and put the flames out, as well as alerting the fire brigade.

Mr Wood said the CCTV showed Walsh, who was a “fairly regular” customer at Globe News, and he was arrested.

In interview, he agreed the CCTV footage looked like him but said he had no recollection of what had happened and had been drunk at the time.

Walsh was given a two-year jail sentence in 1992 after being convicted of arson and Mr Wood said there were also “very strong suspicions” he had been involved in other fire starting.

Walsh had been subjected to an interim hospital order since being arrested and was assessed by psychiatrists and psychologists but did not qualify for a sentence under the Mental Health Act.

Clare Ashcroft, mitigating, said her client was in danger of being institutionalised as he had spent “a great majority of his adult life either in prison or receiving treatment for various disorders.”

She said Walsh would not receive the help he needed in prison and added: “Mr Walsh describes a traumatic childhood during which he suffered sexual abuse which is something which he has informed me and various psychiatrists and psychologists has been so much trouble to him.

“It is something he wishes to obtain counselling for. As yet he has not obtained counselling which he feels has been adequate to address his needs.”

She said Walsh was in a “catch 22” and that he started fires “to relieve the emotional traumas of past experiences.”

Jailing him for three years, Judge Peter Fenn told Walsh that only a custodial sentence was suitable due to the potential harm that could have been caused by his actions.

The owner of Globe News said last night that he preferred not to comment on the case.

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