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guilty plea Man who told gardaí he had no memory of setting fire to house doorway given suspended sentence

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The case was adjourned after Blanchardstown District Court

The case was adjourned after Blanchardstown District Court

The case was adjourned after Blanchardstown District Court

A man who set fire to a doorway and told gardaí he woke up the next morning with burns on his body and no memory of what happened has been given a suspended sentence.

Ian Morton (31) was drinking in a pub in Harold's Cross, Dublin in October last year before he was asked to leave for being too intoxicated, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

He then got into his car, picked up some petrol from a nearby garage and came back to the area, where he set fire to the doorway of a house close to the pub.

A number of barmen from the pub witnessed the fire being lit and put it out with a fire extinguisher. The house, which was divided into a number of apartments, had to be evacuated.

Morton, of Tibradden Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of committing arson at Harold's Cross Road, Dublin on October 6, 2019. He has two previous convictions for drink-driving.

Garda Ciara Flaherty told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, that Morton was caught on CCTV footage of a nearby garage, where he bought €5 worth of petrol before setting the doorway on fire.

Gardaí tracked Morton down through his car registration and arrested him at his aunt's house the following day.

Morton had bad burns to his arms, hands and face and gardaí brought him to hospital for treatment.

Morton told gardaí that he had been drinking all day and had no memory of what had happened. He did not know why he set fire to the doorway. He suffers from bipolar disorder, the court heard.

Sentencing him today, Judge Elma Sheahan said it was lucky that no-one was seriously injured in the fire.

“The court notes and accepts the accused has been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder but it is his abuse of alcohol and other drugs which has caused him to be here today,” she said.

The court heard Morton is now drug and alcohol-free, is receiving counselling and is on medication.

The judge noted that arson is often associated with mental health difficulties and she noted that that a suspended sentence with supports in place is often the appropriate way of dealing with such cases.

She handed down a three year sentence and suspended it on a number of conditions.

The court previously heard that the residents of the house on Harold's Cross Road were alerted to the fire by smoke billowing into the building.

They evacuated the building through the back door. There was some smoke damage to the building as a result of the fire, with residents describing how they had to clean the ceilings and walls.

The door was destroyed, along with the buzzer system, the court heard.

Rebecca Smith BL, defending, said her client had been drinking heavily at the time and was off his medication. She handed up a psychological report along with a letter of apology from Morton.

He is “deeply remorseful” for his actions that night, she said. The court heard Morton has stopped drinking and is hoping to enter rehab. He had €2000 available in court as a token of his remorse.

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