A convicted arsonist who set fire to wheelie bins below the window of a young couple’s flat has been jailed for more than six years.
David Lister had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a charge of arson being reckless whether lives would be endangered.
Two other arson charges, which he denied, were allowed to lie on the court file as Lister, 56, of Royal Court, Rounds Gardens, Rugby, was jailed for six years and three months.
Prosecutor Ian Speed said that at shortly before three in the morning on July 24 last year Lister was seen near wheelie bins in Manor Road, Rugby.
He set fire to the bins, and the flames reached up towards the open window of a flat where a couple and their six-month-old baby were asleep.
The young mother was fortunately woken by a loud bang from the burning bins and could smell smoke coming in through the window.
So she got up and looked out and was frightened to see that the bins and a fence were on fire, with the flames almost reaching the height of the window.
The fire brigade and police were called, and the blaze was put out.
When Lister, who had convictions for arson in 1995 and 2001, when he had set fire to a rubbish cage outside a Rugby store, was arrested he made no admissions - but was identified from a CCTV recording.
David Everett, defending, said that when Lister spoke to a probation officer and a psychiatrist who prepared reports on him, he claimed he was not guilty, but does accept his guilt.
Judge Peter Carr said he was concerned by the conclusion of the psychiatrist that the risk of further arson attacks was ‘chronic,’ although infrequent.
Mr Everett conceded that there were ‘clearly psychological problems,’ and both of Lister’s previous arson offences had arisen out of difficulties in relationships.
Lister had been moved out of his council accommodation in 2005 because of disturbances, and had effectively been homeless since then although he has formed a relationship with a woman who has mental health problems.
He was living with the woman on and off, which the local authority was unhappy about, and they had argued on that evening.
“He took tablets and went out and vented his anger by setting fire to a bin,” said Mr Everett.
He pointed out that the bins were not next to the wall of the building, but conceded: “Plainly when it was burning, the flames would have been up by the window and very frightening for the occupants.”
Jailing Lister, Judge Carr told him: “Having taken some sleeping tablets and probably alcohol as well, you set fire to two wheelie bins in the middle of the night.
“I accept no-one was in fact injured, but the potential for catastrophic consequences was there because the bins you set fire to were in a yard at the rear of a property where that lady lived with her partner and very young child.
“I am not sure quite what made you do what you did on this occasion.
“It is concerning to read in the psychiatric report that arson may not be imminent but may resume within months or years of forming another relationship with this lady or in a new one and things do not go as well as you want.”