Family fled as neighbour sparked blaze after drink and drugs cocktail

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A FAMILY home in South Tyneside was filled with potentially deadly smoke when a neighbour fell asleep while smoking a cigarette.

A sleeping couple and their four children were woken by a fire alarm sounding in their house at Bamford Walk, South Shields, in the early hours of February 4 and they were forced to flee the toxic fumes.

Newcastle Crown Court heard their neighbour Joseph Robinson’s bed had caught fire when he fell asleep holding a cigarette after downing vodka, cocaine, cannabis and more than 20 valium tablets.

Robinson, 52, now of Froude Avenue, South Shields, admitted arson being reckless to life endangered, and was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years.

Michael Bunch, prosecuting, told the court: “In the early hours of the morning, the neighbour saw the room was full of smoke and the alarm was ringing.

“They were unable to find fire in their own property but went upstairs, where his four sons were asleep in bed, and removed them.”

Fire officers using breathing apparatus found Robinson lying unconscious in his home and he was helped to safety.

Mr Bunch added: “What had in fact happened is he got himself intoxicated, had been smoking in bed and fell asleep and that set fire to his bed.”

Mr Recorder Winn told Robinson: “The fire you accidentally started endangered the lives of others.

“Your neighbours were put at great risk. It must have been extremely distressing for them.”

The judge said he accepted Robinson was undergoing “extreme turmoil” at the time of the offence.

Graeme Cook, defending, said Robinson had taken the drink and drugs cocktail during a suicide bid after his relationship broke down.

Mr Cook said Robinson had realised a blaze had taken hold and was trying to extinguish it before he became unconscious.