Hartlepool mother’s plea helps keep son out of prison

The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.
The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.

A mother made an impassioned plea to a judge to release her son from custody to get help with his drug addiction.

Martin French set fire to the family home in Hartlepool in an apparent bid to kill himself, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Jenny Haigh said French’s mother wanted the judge who passed sentence on her son to be aware of her views.

“Mrs French says prison is not the right environment for her son.” added Ms Haigh.

“She says she is desperately worried about him, and that he needs medical treatment rather than further punishment.

“Her view is that he should not have been prosecuted for starting the fire.”

The court heard French had been arguing with his girlfriend, also a cocaine user.

“Because of the arguments Mrs French left the house in the early hours,” added Ms Haigh. “She took her other son with her.

“At about 6.30am she received a call from her son telling her he had set fire to the house, and that would be the end for him.

“The fire brigade was called, and fortunately the fire was contained in the kitchen.

“Eight seats of fire were found, as were empty spirit and acetone bottles, which had been used as accelerants.”

French, 29, of Fieldfare Road, Hartlepool, admitted arson on November 11.

Stephen Constantine, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr French’s life has been blighted by illegal drugs from the age of 10.

“Since being on remand for the last six weeks he has been free of drugs, and he tells me he feels better than he has done for a long time.

“He is finally coming to realise he shouldn’t be leeching off his mother, and he should be showing her more respect.”

Judge Stephen Ashurst sentenced French to 15 months in prison, suspended for two years, including a drug rehabilitation programme of 12 months.

The judge said he owed it to his mother to not let her down and comply with the order.

The judge told him: “You have spent some time in prison, and there is a case for saying it would do you good to stay there longer.

“However, you would likely be released within a few weeks on home detention curfew without the level of supervision you would be under from a community-based sentence.

“The sentence I’ve passed has an element of carrot and stick about it, if you don’t comply with it, you know you will go back to prison.

“I also take very much into account that your mother has stuck her neck out on your behalf.

“You owe it to her to comply with the terms of the sentence and not let her down.”