A laughing arsonist who put lives in danger for his own amusement has been jailed for six years.
Jason Underwood, 29, went on an arson spree earlier this year, setting fire to a bin bag outside the front door of one of his neighbours and later igniting wheelie bins, Taunton Crown Court was told.
As a young woman slept in her flat at Ivel Court in Yeovil, Underwood lit a rubbish bag outside her property during the early hours of Sunday, January 22, this year.
“Had the fire spread, it would have trapped the occupants”, said William Hunter prosecuting.
The following month, Underwood set fire to two wheelie bins and called the emergency services but denied lighting the fires two days later.
Lawrence Wilcox, defending, said Underwood was a “borderline” case who did not have a “proper” girlfriend until he was 24 and that there had been concern about his mental state following the death of his mother.
Underwood, who also lived in Ivel Court flats, was described as immature, isolated, a loner and ill-equipped but not causing serious harm.
“The man who discovered the fire said it was small and perhaps the worst that could have happened would be smoke damage,” said Mr Wilcox.
He added that Underwood did not use a fire accelerant and did not present a risk of significant harm.
“He falls between gaps in the system.
“There doesn’t appear to be any sort of assistance and, inside, he’s going to be bullied,” he told the court.
Doctors said he had borderline learning difficulties but did not suffer from mental illness.
Judge Graham Hume Jones said Underwood had pleaded guilty to reckless arson and to simple arson while subject to a community order for a previous arson.
He said in these incidents the fires had been extinguished and serious damage and danger to life was prevented.
Sentencing Underwood to six years imprisonment and an additional four years supervision order for public protection, he said: “It’s said that you were seen laughing at what you had done. You are said to have a fascination with fire.”
“I take the view this is a serious case of arson, being reckless.
“It was late at night when the occupant of the flat could be expected to be asleep. For that offence the starting point is eight years at the very least.
“I consider there should be an extended sentence to protect the public after your normal period of supervision,” he added.
Deliberate fire reduction manager George Setter, of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Arson is a serious crime which doesn’t only damage property.
“These fires often get completely out of control and members of the public and firefighters have been seriously injured or even killed as a result of arsonists.
“This sentence should act as a reminder to everyone that this type of behaviour is not acceptable and those found guilty of arson will be punished.
“It is a good example of fire and police officers working closely together to prosecute those that break the law and endanger lives.”