Belfast Telegraph

Suicidal Belfast man who torched flat sentenced to three years for arson

In the circumstances the sentence would be one of three years: 18 months in custody, followed by 18 months on licence (stock photo)
In the circumstances the sentence would be one of three years: 18 months in custody, followed by 18 months on licence (stock photo)

By Michael Donnelly

A Belfast man who wanted to kill himself by setting fire to his flat, later told police he "thought he would just go off to sleep and that would be the end... he only wanted to kill himself".

Colm McClenaghan (27), who had to be rescued from the bathroom of his smoke-filled north Belfast apartment last September, was sentenced to a total of three years for arson, being reckless as to endangering the lives of others.

Belfast Crown Court Judge Stephen Fowler QC said a distressed McClenaghan raised the alarm, calling police and telling them he didn't want to live anymore and that he had started a fire in his then Flax Street home.

Police who arrived on the scene attempted their own rescue but were beaten back by the billowing smoke, and several officers had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Judge Fowler said McClenaghan, who has a bad criminal record, including arson, was found armed with a knife in his bathroom by fire and rescue officers wearing breathing apparatus.

While he was soon disarmed, he too had to be treated for smoke inhalation and claimed he only had the knife to harm himself.

The judge said it was clear that McClenaghan was a young man who did not have his sorrows to seek, who had also struggled over the years with mental health difficulties, but that his expressions of remorse were accepted as being genuine.

However, he added that the courts considered all offences of arson serious, and it was quite clear in this case the custody threshold had been crossed, and had he contested the case the appropriate sentence would be one of four-and-a-half years.

But in mitigation he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and admitted his guilt to police and accepted his responsibility from the outset.

In the circumstances the sentence would be one of three years: 18 months in custody, followed by 18 months on licence.

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