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Man who set derelict Portadown building alight rescued from upper floor by firefighters

A man who set fire to a derelict building in Portadown town centre has been handed a 23 month sentence.

Andrejs Ivanovs, 49, with an address in Clonavon Avenue in the town, was sentenced at Craigavon Crown Court on Friday, after pleading guilty to a single count of arson.

Crown prosecutor Ian Tannahill explained that the fire occurred in a derelict property at the rear of the town’s public library on December 20, 2020.

Three fire engines attended the blaze, which was started in an upper floor, before in burnt its way down to a lower level.

Mr Tannahill told the court how fire fighters forced entry into the upper section of the building and found the defendant sitting in the dark looking back out at them.

He was treated for smoke inhalation and taken to Craigavon Area Hospital.

Mr Tannahill added that, clearly intoxicated at the time, Ivanovs had split from his partner and had gone to the property to sleep.

Defence solicitor Joel Lindsay reaffirmed  that his client had gone into the property to sleep adding that it was a cold December night and the fire was lit “not necessarily by him, but by others”.

Mr Lindsay said Ivanovs remained living homeless after the incident and wasn’t arrested until several months later by which stage he was still living homeless in derelict buildings but with a broken arm. .

In mitigating, Mr Lindsay noted the fact Ivanovs did not leave the building at the time of fire, and that had he left, there was nothing linking him to the crime.

He added that his client has a previous record but very little in the last 4-5 years and that “this was an incident that went wrong”.

Crown Judge Patrick Lynch QC, in passing sentence, remarked: “This is a serious offence that you pleaded guilty to. I accept there was no malicious intent behind setting this fire and that it was simply to keep yourself warm, nonetheless it was a dangerous act, in that individuals could have been hurt had the fire spread rapidly.

“This was however a derelict building and there is no identifiable economic loss. I take into account your defence and the fact you have pleaded guilty.

“It seems you have struggled mentally and physically and were homeless at the relevant time; you have a criminal record but that does not entail offences of this nature.”

Judge Lynch QC sentenced Ivanovs to 23 months imprisonment – split 11 months in custody and 12 months on licence, meaning he is due to spend five more weeks in custody having been detained since March 2021.

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