Arsonist puts prison in lockdown after planting 'joke' bomb

Matthew Lea, aged 23 Credit: BPM Media

An arsonist who burned down a Thorntons branch has put a prison in lockdown after planting a hoax improvised bomb.

Matthew Lea was jailed for 51 months at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in 2019 after he torched Longton Thorntons, twice stole from Wrights pies, and pulled out a screwdriver on a Royal Stoke University Hospital security guard.The 23-year-old was being held at Dovegate Prison, on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border.

He was later moved to HMP Lowdham Grange when the prison was forced into lockdown.Lea had left a plastic bottle fitted with wires and white powder under a door after he had covered a CCTV camera lens with tissue paper.

He also had Isis and Taliban terrorist propaganda.Lea has been jailed for 20 months at Nottingham Crown Court following the incident in 2022.Judge Rosalind Coe KC said:

"It was your actions which caused the segregation unit to have to be evacuated and the police and bomb disposal experts to have to be called out and caused a huge amount of disruption to the prison.

"Whether it was a joke or otherwise, you clearly intended for people to believe it might be an explosive device.

"The SD card contained Isis propaganda and Taliban material and whether or not you had a particular interest in radicalisation that the material contained that is an aggravating feature."Lea pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited item inside prison and placing an article with intent to cause fear of violence. He has 13 previous convictions for 34 offences.Shahida Begum, mitigating, said her client disputes any interest in terrorism or radicalisation and having had a difficult upbringing, including physical abuse in foster care, is vulnerable.She said: "He was very, very silly and immature and when he was spoken to by the prison staff he told them it was a joke."

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