Belfast Telegraph

Man who heard voices committed to hospital following arson attacks

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 21-year old schizophrenic who set fire to both his and his neighbours oil tanks was made the subject of an indefinite hospital order for the protection of the public.

Daniel Weir's actions over a six-month period led to homes in the Broadlands Gardens area of Carrickfergus being evacuated, and he was eventually arrested after being caught by police surveillance.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Weir suffers from schizophrenia, and that his symptoms include hearing voices. He was transferred from custody to prison, where he is currently undergoing "urgent medical treatment" for his condition.

A Crown prosecutor said Weir, from Ballystrudder Gardens in Islandmagee, pleaded guilty to four counts of arson endangering life, as well as two counts of placing an article causing a bomb hoax.

Weir's offending began in September 2013, when he set his own oil tank on fire, and ended in March 2014 when he was captured on police CCTV setting fire to a neighbour's oil tank. At the time, he was living in Broadlands Gardens.

Speaking of the impact the fires had both on the local community and residents in the area, the prosecutor said the four separate incidents of arson where "at the property in which the accused was living in at the time, or it's environs" and that each arson related to an oil tank being set on fire.

Branding each of the arsons as "very grave" which led to damage to property and the evacuation of local residents, the prosecutor told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that the risk of Weir's actions was "both significant and obvious."

The prosecutor said that following the first few arsons -coupled with two hoax devices being placed in the area in two separate incidents in January 2014 - police set up surveillance in the area, which in turn led to Weir's arrest last March.

On March 8, Weir was observed leaving the rear of his home just before a fire broke out at the oil tank then returning back into the house. Several days later, he was seen at the rear of the property where he set fire to items placed under the oil tank, before going back into the house.

The prosecutor concluded by saying that when arrested, Weir - who came before the court with no previous convictions - displayed difficulties with his mental health and "made certain admissions".

Defence barrister Chris O'Rawe described his client as a "young man with complex difficulties and needs".

Mr O'Rawe called a psychiatrist to give evidence to the court. After confirming that Weir suffers from schizophrenia, the doctor said he was currently receiving treatment in hospital.

Judge Kerr branded his offending as "bizarre" and "serious", the judge said it was "perfectly clear this man is a high risk of re-offending." Judge Kerr then agreed to make Weir the subject of a hospital order for an unlimited period.

Belfast Telegraph


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