A Northern Ireland man who petrol bombed his ex-girlfriend's family home in "a premeditated act of revenge" was handed a four-and-half-year jail sentence yesterday.
Ordering 39-year-old Kenneth Houston to spend half his sentence in jail and half under licence, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said that with a six-month-old baby in the house at the time of the revenge attack "it need not be emphasised by the court the possible appalling consequences".
"It is within the experience of this court, and no doubt many members of the court, that appalling injuries and indeed death have resulted from such attacks," he said.
At the end of his trial earlier this year Houston, whose address was given as c/o Maghaberry Prison, was convicted of attempted arson being reckless whether the lives of the six people inside, three generations of a family including a six-month-old baby, would be endangered.
Jailing Houston yesterday, Judge Lynch summarised the facts of the case as heard by the jury in that about 20 minutes after the home owner went to bed on October 31, 2018, he saw a "streak of light" at the bedroom window followed by a "crash" at the property on the Ballymacash Road in Lisburn.
"He thought it was a firework but he realised in fact there were flames licking up the outside," said the judge, adding that he "told everyone to get out" before tackling the fire himself.
Having dealt with it, the home owner "got in his car and followed in the direction of a shadow, which he thought was the person who threw the petrol bomb".
Houston, the court heard, was arrested at his home and clothing seized from his washing machine at 2am was found to contain traces of a combination of accelerants used in the petrol bomb.
Although Houston denied involvement both during police interviews and when giving evidence to the trial jury, claiming that while he had been "out and about" in the area at the time of the incident but had nothing to do with it, Judge Lynch said it was clear that by their conviction "the jury rejected that".
It was the Crown case that Houston carries out his potentially lethal attack because of grievances he held about the way the family had treated him while he was in a relationship with one of them.
"It's clear they thought little of the defendant," said Judge Lynch who, highlighting his 34 previous convictions for drugs, assaults, dishonesty and driving offences, commented that "one can hardly wonder at that given his record and the circumstances of the present case".
The judge said he accepted defence submissions that it was a single device being "lobbed" at the house and that it was attempted arson rather than a "completed offence", but in jailing Houston he continued that it was clearly a "premeditated act of revenge" committed in circumstances where he had "prepared a petrol bomb and walked around with it at night".