Teenager detained after starting fire

A teenager who suffers from schizophrenia is today under the care of mental health services after endangering lives by starting a fire.

STOWMARKET: A teenager who suffers from schizophrenia is today under the care of mental health services after endangering lives by starting a fire.

James Dent, 19, of no fixed address, admitted he started the blaze at the house in Finborough Road, Stowmarket - owned by the Church of England - where six squatters were sleeping in July last year.

It was heard at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday that on July 29, last year, the squatters had gone to bed some time between midnight and 4am. At 9.30am some of them were woken by a fire alarm and managed to put out the fire quickly.

The court heard that the fire had been started by lighting oil-soaker paper wrappings inside bin bags in a downstairs room. Two fire crews were sent to the scene and a police helicopter was also despatched.


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Prosecuting, Matthew Edwards said there had been an allegation that Dent had stolen some vinyl records from one of the squatters.

He said: “At least one of the individuals was not woken by the alarm. They were still asleep when the fire took hold. In interview the defendant [Dent] acknowledged starting the fire and admitted being fully aware of his actions.”

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The fire did not cause much damage and was put out by some of the occupants using blankets. The defendant was later seen standing bare-chested opposite the squat, holding a bread knife.

He was arrested and taken to the police station, where it was heard he spat at an officer and smeared excrement on the cell wall.

At the time he was on bail for other offences, which he pleaded guilty to, including possession of cannabis, attempted theft of a motor vehicle and two counts of criminal damage, which took place between April 19 and July 20, 2008.

The court also heard that he has previous convictions for a number of offences, including possessing an offensive weapon, and suffers from schizophrenia.

Judge David Goodin said: “You are beset by voices telling you to harm others. In view of what you did at the squat where there were half a dozen people, and your background, there is no doubt you present a serious danger to the public by virtue of your mental illness.”

Judge Goodin made an order to detain him under the mental health act at a hospital.

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