A HOMELESS man has avoided a jail term after setting fire to a commentary box at a football stadium.
Paul Barber, 29, was given an 18-month suspended sentence by a judge at Portsmouth Crown Court yesterday after admitting arson at Fareham Town FC’s Cams Alders ground last year.
When people start fires it can very easily get out of control. Fortunately for you, it did not.Judge Claudia Ackner
Barber, who became homeless last year after redundancy and the ending of a long-term relationship, set fire to the commentary box following an argument with two other rough sleepers.
The court heard that the box is seen as a warm place to stay by homeless people and Barber, along with the two other men, planned to use it for shelter on the evening of November 8.
However, Barber, who arrived at the box after the other two men, was prevented from entering and claimed one of them threatened him.
In retaliation, he used a lighter to set fire to a DVD case, which led to a small fire, causing £200 damage to the door.
He was arrested on the same night and then pleaded guilty to the offence in court on December 12.
Barber, who appeared via a video link from HMP Winchester, interrupted Judge Claudia Ackner to apologise for the crime numerous times.
Imogen Nelson, defending Barber, said: ‘It has been very difficult for him after becoming homeless, both mentally physically and mentally. He knows it is no excuse, but says his actions were stupid and reckless.
‘He is genuinely remorseful for his actions and is motivated to get himself back on his feet.’
Judge Ackner said in her sentencing: ‘You started the fire so that they would open the door. It will not only cause inconvenience for the club, but it has a financial impact as well.
‘When people start a fire, it can very easily get out of control. Fortunately for you, it did not.
She added: ‘I’m sure your time in custody has had a lasting impact on you.’
Barber’s sentence is suspended for two years and he was also ordered to carry out 25 days of rehabilitation work.