Jail for arsonist who drove family out of their home

JAILED ... Liam Powell was locked up for three years and four months.
JAILED ... Liam Powell was locked up for three years and four months.

A COUPLE were left too traumatised to continue living in their home after an arsonist started a blaze at their front door.

Liam Powell targeted a family home at Stothard Street, Jarrow, in November last year, after a seemingly-harmless argument a few days before.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 22-year-old wedged a stick in the letterbox and then put blazing paper through until a fire took hold.

When firefighters arrived at the house, where the couple and their teenage son were inside, every room was filled with smoke and the door was damaged and smouldering.

No one was hurt in the blaze and Powell was arrested after being found hiding in long grass nearby, after being seen fleeing from the scene.

Michael Bunch, prosecuting, told the court: “A fire accident report confirmed the cause of the fire was material through the letterbox.

“There was no accelerant, simply exposure to naked flames on those items.”

The court heard the family no longer felt secure in their home and what happened has had a huge effect on their lives.

Mr Bunch told the court: “It has had a significant effect on them.

“They were moved immediately after this incident from Stothard Street, where the couple say they were happy, because they both felt unsafe and unable to return to it.

“They both find it difficult to sleep and difficult to settle in the house.”

Powell, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless to life endangered. Mr Recorder Gargan sentenced him to three years and four months behind bars.

The judge said: “I accept you had some problems with the victim of the offence, he had been unpleasant to you two days before, but there is no excuse for an offence of this seriousness.

“Fire can kill people.”

John Wilkinson, defending, said Powell was living a life in “turmoil” at the time and was homless after giving up his home due to bedroom tax.

Mr Wilkinson added: “He was going through an extremely difficult time when this offence arose.”

After the hearing, South Tyneside Chief Inspector Sarah Pitt, said: “What Powell did was extremely dangerous and put people’s lives at risk.

“It’s pleasing that the courts have recognised the severity of his actions and have given him a custodial sentence.”

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