A 34-year-old man who started an early-morning fire in a high-rise block of flats in Belfast was sentenced for the arson attack yesterday.
Handing Thomas Stephen Naan a four-year sentence, Judge Stephen Fowler QC said his actions endangered the lives of occupants in Fianna House, many of whom were asleep.
Naan, from Lower Regent Street in Belfast, appeared in the city's Crown Court via a videolink with his solicitor's office. He was told by Judge Fowler that the sentence will be split between two years in jail followed by two years on licence.
Judge Fowler also ordered Naan to present himself to Laganside Courts at 10am tomorrow, when he has to surrender himself to custody.
Revealing that Naan was under the influence of drugs when he set a sofa on fire in the block of flats, Judge Fowler expressed the hope that the defendant would address his long-standing addiction during his period on licence.
Barrister Sean Devine said that after watching CCTV footage of Naan at the flats, it was "quite clear he was in a state of mental disarray."
Branding the incident as "extremely serious", Judge Fowler said that around 2.40am on April 2 last year, Naan was captured on CCTV leaving a flat on the third floor of Fianna House - a 13-storey block of flats located in the New Lodge area.
An "intoxicated" Naan then set fire to a sofa in the communal area on the third floor outside the flats, before getting into the lift to the ground floor.
As he left the premises, Naan spoke to the concierge, and a short time later the fire alarm activated due to smoke on the third floor. The Fire Service was called, and the concierge used a fire extinguisher to tackle the burning sofa. When fire crews arrived, the third floor hallway and corridor area was filled with smoke.
None of the residents sustained any injuries, smoke damage was limited and a senior fire officer later praised the quick-thinking actions of the concierge who stopped the fire from spreading.
Naan was arrested in Lower Regent Street at 4.35am, and during interview he claimed he knew nothing about the fire at Fianna House as he was "off his head on tablets".
He told police he wouldn't have done what he was accused of and claimed he was being framed by one of the occupants. He also challenged the assertion that the arson put lives at risk.
Naan - who later admitted a charge of arson being reckless as to whether the lives of the residents would be endangered - appeared in court with 12 previous convictions.
As he sentenced Naan, Judge Fowler noted his long-standing addiction to drugs, including cannabis, Diazepam and Pregabalin, and his reluctance to accept help for this.