Arsonist who torched 'abusive' neighbour's home is spared prison
Published 31/03/2011 | 05:00
AN arsonist who torched the home of a "neighbour from hell" after what was described as "continuous and extreme provocation" escaped jail yesterday.
Instead, Reginald Greene (21) was ordered by a Circuit Court judge to carry out 240 hours of community service.
Mr Greene, formerly of Emerald Drive, Killybegs, Co Donegal, was before Donegal Circuit Court for burning the home of neighbour, Michael O'Shea (42).
The court heard that a litany of unsociable behaviour by Mr O'Shea, an alcoholic, culminating in Mr O'Shea chewing Mr Greene's food and spitting it at him in a Chinese restaurant.
Mr Greene told the court that Mr O'Shea verbally abused children in the estate, smashed windows in his home and once went into a room with a lit cigarette and oxygen tank "and tried to blow the place up".
Mr O'Shea even tried to gatecrash Mr Greene's wedding party when Mr Greene married his girlfriend, Pauline Friel.
"He was a neighbour from hell. He broke my children's toys. He gave them and other children verbal abuse," he told the court.
Bad relations came to a head when Mr O'Shea and another man, both drunk, pestered Mr Greene and his then girlfriend in a Chinese restaurant to get them to go to a party. They declined and Mr O'Shea chewed a piece of Mr Greene's chicken and spat it at him.
Later, Mr Greene went to Mr O'Shea's unlocked home and, after checking the house was empty, threw a lighted paper on a duvet-covered bed and another on the front-room sofa.
The blaze caused €14,130 to the council property and another €5,000 worth of damage to furniture.
Mr Greene, who now lives in Stranorlar with his wife and three children, pleaded guilty to the arson on May 7, 2009.
He told the court he was angry and drunk on the night and just wanted Mr O'Shea to leave them alone.
Detective Garda John Breslin confirmed to the court that there was a history of continuous conflict between the two.
He said that Mr Greene was definitely aware the house was empty when he set the fire.
Gardai were aware Mr O'Shea had "a serious drink problem".
Judge John O'Hagan told Mr Greene it was not a defence to claim provocation but at the same time was aware "of extreme provocation over a period of time, which is a mitigating factor".
He sentenced him to four years in jail, suspended on condition that he do 240 hours' community work.
The judge added that if Mr O'Shea wished to seek compensation for his loss of furniture, he could pursue it in the civil court.