Arsonist asked to be jailed

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AN arsonist who set fire to three school wheelie bins and then called the police himself urged magistrates to send him to prison.

Daniel Alan Wood’s wish was granted when justices at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court locked him up for 16 weeks.

The court heard the 23-year-old’s fire-starting antics were a cry for “attention” and a desire to be sent to prison following the loss of his job and accommodation last year.

So in a bid to be caged, Hartlepool man Wood went to St Hild’s CE School, in King Oswy Drive, in the West View area of Hartlepool, and ignited the blaze in the three wheelie bins – which cost £250 each.

Firefighters and police were called to the school at 8.30pm. But officers were initially unable to find the person responsible.

Later that night, however, at 10.30pm, police received an anonymous call to reports of a man armed with a knife in King Oswy Drive.

This fictitious call was really made by Wood, who waited at the scene until police arrived, only for them to find that he wasn’t really carrying a weapon at all.

Wood, of no fixed address, then used the opportunity to tell police that he was the nameless caller and that two hours earlier he had started the fires at the school.

Prosecuting, Lilian Atkinson, told justices: “It was 8.30pm when police were alerted by the fire brigade to three bins alight at St Hild’s School.

“When officers arrived there was no sign of anyone responsible but the bins were on fire and they were put out by the fire brigade.

“Later that night at 10.30pm police were called anonymously with the caller stating there was a male in King Oswy Drive with a knife.

“Officers arrived and searched the man who was there but there was no knife found. He said that he was the one who’d called the police and as he was arrested he said he’d set fire to the bins at the school, one at the front and two at the back.”

Wood, who has previous convictions for criminal damage on his record, pleaded guilty to damaging three environmental waste bins, on February 12, and also for committing the offence while subject to a conditional discharge imposed on January 2.

Mitigating, John Relton said: “I always find it difficult when defendants’ circumstances are such that they offend to go to prison. It tells you how desperate their situation is.

“He lost his employment last year and that coincided with his inability to maintain and pay for his accommodation which was then removed from him. That is a cameo of what’s been going on in his life.”

He added: “Daniel Wood is hoping your worships believe he will benefit from some of the programmes offered in prison. If you adhere to his request, it might be of some benefit to him.

“This was a serious offence which could have been more serious. It was for attention and he was the one who rang police.”

On sending Wood down, chairman of the bench Barbara Sutheran said: “The reason for custody are, you planned it and it was a public building.”