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Thug who set sleeping pal's head on fire gets a 10-month sentence

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'The court heard that as the friend's hair and face caught fire Black started laughing. The injured man ran to the bathroom and put out the flames before leaving the house and going home' (stock photo)

'The court heard that as the friend's hair and face caught fire Black started laughing. The injured man ran to the bathroom and put out the flames before leaving the house and going home' (stock photo)

'The court heard that as the friend's hair and face caught fire Black started laughing. The injured man ran to the bathroom and put out the flames before leaving the house and going home' (stock photo)

A Belfast man who set fire to his friend's head as he slept has been ordered to spend 10 months in Hydebank.

Ciaran Black poured lighter fluid on his friend's head then set it on fire in an early morning incident in the west of the city in May 2018.

Judge Patricia Smyth told the 20-year-old: "It is fortunate that your friend, who was the victim, did not sustain serious injuries as a result of your reckless behaviour."

Black, from Carrigart Avenue, appeared at a remote sitting of Belfast Crown Court via a video-link with Hydebank yesterday, where he was sentenced for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Black, the injured party and two other young men had spent the evening of May 19, 2018 drinking before going back to the Springfield Park home of a relative of Black's.

At around 6.30am the victim fell asleep in a bed, and around 30 minutes later he was woken with the sensation of liquid being poured on his face.

Black was standing over him with a bottle of lighter fluid in his right hand and lighter in the other. The friend was able to ask Black 'what are you at?' before his head was set on fire.

The court heard that as the friend's hair and face caught fire Black started laughing. The injured man ran to the bathroom and put out the flames before leaving the house and going home.

He went to bed, but later that day he realised the extent of his injuries and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was treated for superficial burns.

He told medical staff his friend had played a prank on him by pouring lighter fluid on his head and lighting it, which set his hair and face on fire for a few seconds.

Judge Smyth noted the injured man suffered "a degree of trauma" in the incident.

She also said that while he may have been an immature young man of 18 at the time, the incident was "not out of character".

Pointing out Black has 68 criminal convictions committed before and after the assault on his friend, Judge Smyth spoke of his "disgraceful behaviour" in the direct aftermath.

She revealed that two days after the fire incident the victim was with his grandfather in the Ballymurphy area, where he saw Black painting graffiti labelling him a tout.

Black then ran at the victim and his grandfather, throwing punches and shouting: "You can't hide forever, I will get you one day." He left the scene but was arrested in the area a short time later.

During his detention he headbutted an officer.

Judge Smyth said Black has already received a three-month sentence for the offences committed in Ballymurphy on May 22, 2018, adding: "It would appear that period in custody did not deter you from committing further offences."

The judge said she noted Black's difficult upbringing and that substance abuse has featured "from a young age".

She also noted Black's guilty plea.

Handing him the 10-month term, Judge Smyth said: "If this was a prank with no intention of causing injury, it was still a deliberate and highly dangerous act."

Belfast Telegraph