Man who burned down Dundee flats jailed for over eight years

Fire in Dundee The fire caused extensive damage to the flats on Garland Place

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A fire-raiser who burned down a block of flats in Dundee has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

A judge at the High Court told Brian Martin his "wicked crime" had put residents of the Garland Place block in "real and substantial danger".

Residents had to be rescued and a firefighter was injured putting out the blaze which was started by the homeless 30-year-old on 25 April, 2012.

Martin was found guilty of wilful fire-raising last month.

The case was referred to the High Court in Edinburgh after a sheriff in Dundee said the five-year maximum penalty available to him was not enough.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby told Martin: "This was a wicked crime. You put the residents of this building in real and substantial danger for their lives."

The property remains extensively damaged, with the roof space completely destroyed.

'Malicious ignition'

Martin had been sleeping rough in the close of the tenement building after a resident who had been putting him up asked him to leave.

Brian Martin Brian Martin was jailed for eight and a half years

On the night of the fire, Martin was thrown out of the Salvation Army hostel on the city's Ward Road after he was caught drinking in his room with a fellow resident.

A fire incident report said the fire had been started by "malicious ignition", possibly by an accelerant being poured on the floor or squirted into a cupboard.

When fire crews arrived on the scene, they found eight out of nine residents at the windows of the tenement seeking rescue.

Firefighter James Ingram also had to be rescued by colleagues when he was injured during the blaze, after the wooden staircase collapsed and he fell eight feet.

As well as being found guilty of wilful fire-raising by a jury, Martin, described as a prisoner at HMP Perth, admitted a further charge of failing to appear at the sheriff court last year after he was earlier granted bail, leading to a police search.

Defence counsel Lili Prais said Martin had said he felt sorry for the occupants' loss.

She said he had been an alcoholic since his teenage years and was also involved in drug abuse. He had also been homeless since the age of 17.

'Extremely serious'

Dave Stapley, the local senior fire officer for Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross, welcomed the sentence for the "extremely serious" incident.

He said fire crews were on the scene for 16 hours following the blaze, along with city engineers who assessed the risks from the damaged building.

He added: "This incident had the potential to cause serious injury or even death, and had an adverse impact on the families who lived there.

"The Kirkton community centre had to be used to provide emergency accommodation for residents forced out of their homes due to the fire, and neighbouring flats also had to be evacuated.

"Deliberately-set fires are dangerous, they waste time and money, divert our crews away from genuine emergencies and put lives and property at risk - the cost to the service and our communities is staggering."

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