JAILED: The man who sparked a gas blast evacuation in South Shields – by vandalising his own meter

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A MAN who vandalised his own gas metre causing 50 people to be evacuated from their homes has been jailed.

Michael Bays ran to his local police station to tell them there was a gas leak at his home in Trinity Walk, South Shields, on March 3.

Police and the fire brigade attended his address where they found the gas meter had been vandalised - there was a hole in the top of it and damage to the piping.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how a screw driver, a hammer and a wire cutter were found next to the pipe.

The 25-year-old’s ground floor flat was filled with gas and the upstairs flat had to be broken into to let the gas escape.

Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said: “About 50 people had to be evacuated from the area while it was made safe by British Gas.

“The implications of it could have been catastrophic and potentially fatal had there been a fire at the property.

“The crown say it was deliberate rather than reckless behaviour.

“A number of streets had to be cornered off to prevent harm to passers by.

“He alerted the police himself. He clearly panicked when the seen what he had done.

“The consequences were not intended. A number of people and emergency services were inconvenienced by his actions.”

Bays pleaded guilty to criminal damage being reckless as to whether life was endangered and possession of amphetamine.

He was in breach of a suspended sentence for abstracting electricity when he carried out the offences.

Tom Moran, defending, said: “Mr Bays was on bail but was remanded in custody on his own request.

“His life had become completely chaotic and had spun out of control.

“He appears to be genuinely remorseful about what happened.

“There are very few offences where the defendant runs to the police station to report them.

“This will be his first custodial sentence. The first custodial sentence often does have any impact on the defendant.”

Recorder Simon Batiste told Bays, of Trinity Walk, South Shields: “You attacked the gas meter and piping causing damage to it. There was a hole in the meter and damage to the pipe coming from it.

“It was a deliberate intention to get into the meter probably to get free gas.

“It was not a deliberate intention to endanger the life of others but given you were in a densely populated area there was a risk to other people.

“I accept that you are remorseful for your behaviour that is obvious by the fact you contacted the police to put matters right.”

Judge Batiste sentenced Bays to 16 months in prison.