A MAN who was tormented by residents after being falsely branded a paedophile torched his flat to “scare his neighbours”.
Preston Crown Court heard Peter Hart placed a candle under his sofa and set a pile of textiles alight in his bedroom - then closed the door and left his home on Ainsdale Drive, Savick, Preston.
The smoke alarm had been disconnected.
It put the lives of nine residents in seven other flats in the block - where he had lived for eight years - at risk.
The 48-year-old later told police a comment posted online on the Facebook site accused him of being a paedophile, and he had been vilified by neighbours ever since, with items thrown at his windows.
Hart pleaded guilty to arson and carrying a bladed article.
Prosecuting, Harry Pepper said Hart, who suffers mental health difficulties, became depressed and decided to set the fire on July 14 last year, before alerting authorities himself a short time later.
He had left the property ablaze and walked into Preston.
He added: “The defendant attended the police station voluntarily. He was searched and found in possession of a knife.
“He said it was for his own protection.
“He said his life had been made a misery by neighbours. He had set the fire to frighten them.
“He explained it was not his intention to hurt anyone.”
Jailing him for four years and four months, Justice Timothy Holroyde said an extended licence period of four years was necessary to protect the public.
He added: “I accept he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, but the inescapable fact is there was a serious risk that people would be burned to death and that’s a terrible crime.”
Defending, Darren Lee Smith said: “This defendant had tried all steps possible.
“Out of desperation he knew what he was doing, but in a psychotic state of mind carried out these actions.”