Man who tried to set fire to Shropshire flat containing six-year-old girl spared jail
A man who tried to set light to a flat with a six-year-old girl inside was suffering from drug-induced psychosis.
Ryan Kempson arrived at Shrewsbury Crown Court with a bag of belongings in preparation for a prison sentence, but walked free after the judge conceded there were "exceptional circumstances".
The 27-year-old, of Vyrnwy Crescent, Llanymynech, was instead handed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years.
The court heard Kempson had set light to the front door of a ground-floor flat in Willow Street, Oswestry, on October 1, 2017.
Ian Ball, prosecuting, said he had gone to the property and used petrol to set fire to a suitcase and rubbish outside the front door.
The flat was occupied by a former friend of Kempson's, who heard noises outside the front of the building which led him to look outside and spot flames at his front door.
He escaped through a bedroom window with his young daughter before returning to douse the fire with a bucket of water.
The fire was out by the time emergency services arrived but had caused more than £3,200 worth of damage.
Mr Ball said Kempson had driven home and confessed to his mother, who called the police.
Upon his arrest, Kempson was detained under the Mental Health Act for five months.
When he was interviewed by police upon his release in March 2018, he said he did not remember starting the fire or why he had done it.
He was initially charged with arson with intent to endanger life, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, which was accepted by prosecutors.
Debra White, for Kempson, read from a psychiatric report that detailed his mental health problems, and also identified that he had long-term personality traits in line with autistic spectrum disorder, for which he was currently waiting for a diagnosis.
The psychiatrist said that at the time of the fire, Kempson was suffering from drug-induced psychosis.
This would not usually be mitigation in itself, due to being self-inflicted, but, crucially, the report stated that he was at the time "psychologically dependant" on cannabis, which had in turn induced the psychosis.
Ms White added that said since the incident he had stopped using drugs, completed his first year at university and stayed out of trouble.
"Mr Kempson has done everything he possibly can to show to those who were affected by by his actions, his family, and this court, that his life is back on the right track," she said.
"Please give him this opportunity to continue along the path that he has taken."
The judge agreed that Kempson's mental health problems at the time constituted exceptional circumstances which would allow him to deviate from sentencing guidelines and suspend the sentence.
During the suspension period, Kempson must complete 160 hours of unpaid work and 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days.
There were tears of joy from his family members in the public gallery as the sentence was delivered.
Judge Anthony Lowe said: "In my judgement the report of the psychiatrist is saying that this is somebody who had no choice, in reality, as to the drugs you were taking.
"That then fed into the psychosis, and your ability to make rational decisions was severely impaired.
"Those are sufficient to amount to exceptional circumstances."
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