Man faces indefinite jail term

AN IPSWICH man, who set fire to his own flat while three other people were also in the building, has been sent to prison for a minimum of four years.

AN IPSWICH man, who set fire to his own flat while three other people were also in the building, has been sent to prison for a minimum of four years.

Michael Graham, 57, was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to arson with the intent of endangering life.

The court heard how, on April 7 this year, Graham set light to paper in his second-floor flat in Dandalan Close, off Bramford Road.

A roofer, who was working on the building, saw smoke rising from a window and ran inside to warn the residents.

In the corridor of the building he saw Graham leaning on the wall with his arms folded. He was giggling to himself and continued to laugh when asked who lived in the flats.

The roofer told Graham to leave the building and began ushering other residents to safety.

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The fire was reported to the emergency services and Graham later admitted to starting the fire by putting a match to papers in at least three separate areas of his flat. He also admitted smashing the fire alarms in the building a few days prior to the incident, including a specialist alarm belonging to a deaf woman living below him.

Michael Crimp, prosecuting, said: “In a police interview, the defendant said 'I wanted to get out of that dump; it was making me feel ill. I'd have blown the bloody place up and the neighbourhood as well.”

Graham had spent some four years at his address in Dandalan Close and his mental health outreach team had developed grave concerns for his state of mind. On one occasion, Graham was found in a cupboard eating nuts and excrement.

Charles Myatt, defending Graham, said: “My client has pleaded guilty to the reckless element of endangering life but made no deliberate attempt to cause harm to others. His anger was directed at the property rather than anyone else.

“He is a physically and mentally vulnerable man who has suffered from mental health problems for decades, requiring spells in psychiatric units.

“He is clearly a man who has been identified as needing a significant amount of support but his past shows that with the right assistance, he does not pose a risk.”

In sentencing Graham to a minimum of four years behind bars, Judge Peter Thompson said: “You deliberately set fire to your own flat and it's clear to me that the other people in the building were at risk. Due to the quick thinking of the man working on the roof, the fire didn't spread further.”

He said he felt it was not appropriate to determine the exact length of sentence at this point.