independent

Saturday 25 October 2014

Man jailed for setting fire to hospital building

COURT HEARS DEFENDANT WAS ANNOYED OVER MONEY

Published 19/12/2012 | 18:52

A MAN who set fire to a building he had been living in at Newcastle Hospital over a row about money received a four-year sentence at last week's sitting of Wicklow Circuit Court.

Richard Flanagan (38), Newcastle Hospital pleaded guilty to arson at Vartry House, Newcastle which belongs to the HSE on May 2, 2012.

The final two years of the sentence were suspended by Judge Michael O'Shea and the sentence back dated to May 3, 2012 when Flanagan went into custody.

The court heard that Vartry House, a building on the grounds of Newcastle Hospital which is used for sheltered accommodation and in which Flanagan had been living had been set on fire.

Garda Gavin Colfer said on arrival the lower part of the building was on fire and he took a statement from staff member Desmond Kehoe who said that Flanagan had arrived at Glencree Ward with a pillowcase saying, ' I'm after setting fire to the house'.

He ran to the house and saw flames coming from the window and called the fire brigade.

The court heard that Paul Whelan of Wicklow Fire Service said the fire brigade had the fire under control within 20 minutes and he could see the fire had started in the sitting room. There was extensive fire and smoke damage.

For the state, Paul Murray, BL, outlined that the damage to the building was in the region of €123,000 including VAT and Garda Colfer confirmed the building was insured.

Garda Colfer said he spoke to Liz Whelan who worked in the accounts office of the hospital who said Flanagan had called to the office looking for money but he had none in his account.

He said he wanted money to visit his father in Fermanagh.

Flanagan was interviewed and during interview said he had been ' hearing a voice all day and got stressed out. I lost the rag and started the fire'.

The court heard Flanagan was ' annoyed with the hospital' over the money and ' they should have known better'.

Flanagan told Garda Colfer he had lit the end of a blanket and threw it onto the sofa.

The court heard Flanagan was estranged from his father who lives in Fermanagh and his sister who lives in Wicklow and had been living in Vartry House for ten years 'on and off '.

Under cross-examination from Seoirse O'Dunlaing for Flanagan Garda Colfer confirmed Flanagan was the only resident of the house at the time and that he 'didn't seek to shift the blame' when he reported the fire.

The court heard Flanagan had never taken up bail and had remained in custody since the incident and was housed on a vulnerable persons landing finding ' custody particularly difficult'.

Garda Colfer said he ' would be anxious that there was some type of structure in place' for Flanagan on his release and the court heard Flanagan had been making efforts while in prison to get psychiatric help.

Mr. O'Dunlaing said Flanagan had written a letter to the court expressing his remorse. He said Flanagan who is on significant medication 'is the first to accept he needs structures in place'.

Judge Michael O'Shea said there was a degree of planning involved and ' he was aware of what he was doing'.

He said setting the fire had been 'motivated by anger and retribution by reason of his failure to get some money.

'It is essential this man receives ongoing psychiatric treatment and monitoring before being released from custody.'

He sentenced Flanagan to four years imprisonment which he back dated to May, 3, 2012 and suspended the final two years on condition Flanagan be of good behaviour for two years on release.

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