South Tyneside man jailed after setting fire to flat
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David Kirsop, who lived with his mother at the time of the offence, started the blaze at Pickering Court in Jarrow at around midnight on January 25.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that a neighbour who lived directly above was alerted by a separate occupant who told him he needed to leave the building because it was on fire.
Prosecutor Paul Cross said that he managed to put most of it out himself before emergency services arrived.
He said that the man originally heard the smoke alarm going off below him but took no action as he thought the defendant was burning food which was a regular occurrence.
Mr Cross added: "By the time the fire brigade arrived it was only a small fire.
"Had the man not have acted, the consequences could have been tragic.
"At 2:25am the defendant was seen by police walking in a street adjacent to Pickering Court."
Kirsop told officers that he had squirted petrol but he had fought hard to extinguish it.
Mr Cross said the fire service were able to deal with what remained when they attended, with the total costs of the damage amounting to £2,053.
The 34-year-old pleaded guilty to arson being reckless to whether life would be endangered.
Sam Faulks, mitigating, said that the defendant, who believed people were "coming to get him", committed the offence due to his poor mental state.
He said: "The arson was clearly born out of the defendant's paranoia, something he has suffered with for many years.
"The specifics of that night are unclear to the defendant.
"Through me he wishes to apologise to the neighbour for what happened on the 25th of January and also apologise to his mother and the council who own the flat."
Mr Faulks added that the defendant had attempted to call the mental health crisis team over 100 times in the lead up to the incident.
Julie Clemitson praised the quick actions of the other occupants in the flat for their response and acknowledged that despite his heavy criminal record,
Kirsop had no previous convictions for arson.
Jailing him for two years she added: "The damage was limited in comparison to many offences of this sort.
"You have expressed some remorse and some shame at your actions."