A former police officer and Royal Navy veteran who torched his ex-partner’s Maryport home while she and three children were inside has been jailed and deemed a dangerous offender.
Stephen Light, 49, deliberately began a blaze which engulfed the occupied former Netherton Vicarage at Church Terrace on 13 June and claimed the life of one family pet dog.
After a disagreement with his then partner Sonia Norris — who went to bed — troubled Light ignited petrol from jerry cans to begin a fire which spread from a living room into a dining room and punched through the ceiling above into first floor bedrooms. Five areas of two rooms were found by fire investigators to have been covered in accelerant.
After Ms Norris was woken by one of the children who yelled that their home was on fire, she screamed to others “get out of the house”. As a teenager was in the shower, his girlfriend exclaimed: “Steve’s lit the house on fire.”
Carlisle Crown Court heard the occupants fled the burning property but were unsure of his whereabouts. “Flames were seen to be billowing out of the patio doors and people were shouting for the defendant,” said prosecutor David Polglase.
Ms Norris attempted to tackle the blaze with water and then spotted Light, who went into the burning building to locate a dog and was then seen outside wearing only boxer shorts.
Light’s traumatised partner said in a statement: “We have lost everything in the fire as the house is uninhabitable and all items are burnt. We have the clothing we stand up in and that is it.”
Of Light, who later admitted arson with intent to endanger life, she added: “I am absolutely devastated that he could do this to me and my family. We all could have died. I am worried if he gets out what he will be capable of doing to us.”
The house was gutted by the fire and is likely to be demolished. Mr Polglase said: “Multiple people were endangered.”
The court heard troubled Light was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2018. This followed service in the Navy and police force. He had attempted self-harm weeks before the fire amid a mental health crisis.
Also in 2018 — while employed as a Northumbria Police sergeant — Light was jailed following his conviction for intentional wounding having attacked his parents’ Workington neighbour with a metal kitchen roll holder he held like a hammer.
He was also sentenced today for breaching a restraining order he received along with the 30-month jail term, and attempting to damage property. These offences occurred as he was caught on CCTV launching two missiles towards windows of the neighbour’s house, in July, 2021, in the dead of night while wearing a balaclava.
Light, formerly of Church Terrace, Maryport, was said to have suffered a significant mental health decline since 2017 following traumatic experiences during Navy service in Bosnia and during a 22-year policing career.
Judge Nicholas Barker imposed a 90-month prison sentence. He concluded Light was a dangerous offender and directed him to serve two-thirds of his sentence before being eligible for parole, plus an extended two-year licence period.
“There was undoubtedly an intent to endanger life,” said Judge Barker. “There was a high risk of serious injury to the four occupants of the property. There also has been caused a very high value of damage.”
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