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East Belfast man jailed after setting fire to his own flat

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The 24-year-old was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The 24-year-old was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The 24-year-old was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A 39-year old resident of a social housing complex who smashed eight windows with a shillelagh then set his flat on fire was jailed on Tuesday.

Simon Nicolas McAleese - who appeared at Belfast Crown Court via a videolink with Maghaberry - was handed a 28-month sentence which was divided equally between prison and licence.

As he sentenced McAleese, Judge Neil Raffery QC said that whilst the offence of arson was serious, he accepted the defendant was "not a manic firestarter."

At around 2pm on September 16 last year, a resident at Pottinger House in the Mount area of east Belfast called police to tell them a fellow resident was 'going mad'.

The caller reported that McAleese was throwing items from the balcony of his flat down into the complex's car park and had smashed windows with a shillelagh.

Later that evening, at around 10.40pm, police were again called to the same complex following a report that McAleese's flat was on fire.

The Fire Service dealt with the blaze, while McAleese was arrested. During interview, he admitted setting his flat on fire and of causing criminal damage by smashing the windows.

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Defence barrister Michael Boyd spoke of his client's "troubled childhood" which he said impacted McAleese in a "dramatic way" and which led to "early addictions."

Mr Boyd also revealed that whilst on remand, McAleese has found stability in a prison setting which he hopes to maintain when he is released on licence.

Judge Rafferty said that whilst he accepted McAleese's "very difficult background" and addiction issues, arson was a serious offence.

He said: "The complex is a supported accommodation and provides essential housing for people that need it.

"Unfortunately the fire that was started caused £22,250's worth of loss to Radius Housing, who are the provider of the accommodation, by way of damage and also by way of loss of rental."

He also said that while McAleese had a 154-strong criminal record and was "no stranger to the courts", there were no previous convictions which "would indicate a propensity for fire-starting."

Judge Rafferty addressed McAleese on the videolink and told him to make the most of the support that will be offered to him by Probation during his 14 months on licence.


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