Bravery award for man who rescued arsonist from Portsmouth blaze

A JUDGE has awarded a heroic neighbour for bravely saving an arsonist's life.

Saturday, 9th July 2016, 6:00 am

Oliver McDermott persuaded Jenna Ford to climb down from her balcony after she set fire to rubbish and curtains.

Smoke filled her flat at Kempenfelt House, Bishop Street, Portsea, Portsmouth, in the blaze, alerting Mr McDermott’s family.

He rushed to put a ladder up to her balcony as Ford’s 14-year-old daughter called for her to come out.

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At Portsmouth Crown Court, judge Sarah Munro QC ordered that Mr McDermott receive a £250 award from the High Sheriff.

The judge said his actions prevented any harm coming to 30-year-old Ford or anyone else. A neighbour had to be woken up during the fire on the afternoon of March 13.

Ford told a doctor she had smoked crack cocaine but later said she was clean for two days. Two crack pipes and two bags of untested white powder that were likely to be cocaine were found in her flat, the court heard.

Ford suffers from an ‘episodic’ personality disorder brought on by drug use, the court heard.

Sentencing, judge Munro said: ‘Mr McDermott placed a ladder up to your balcony in an attempt to persuade you to come down but you refused.

‘He then very bravely climbed that ladder and persuaded you to come down.

‘Another of your neighbours had to be woken in order to be evacuated.

‘The fire service attended and discovered you had locked the door from inside and used a lighter to first set fire to a bag of rubbish behind the door and then later to the curtains.’

Judge Munro said Ford, who was suffering from an episode at the time, told police: ‘They were laughing at me, I thought all my family were upstairs, I’m fed up with them all laughing at me.’

The judge added: ‘Later you said your intention was to kill yourself in the belief your family were filming you and wanted to give them something to look at.’

Judge Munro sentenced Ford to a 20-month prison term suspended for two years with nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement and 30 rehabilitation activity days.

Ford, who pleaded guilty to arson reckless as to whether life endangered, has now realised how serious her actions were, the judge added.

Ford was ordered to live with her mother for three months at Magpie Walk, Wecock Farm.