Gateshead conspiracy theorist who torched 5G mast was suffering "severe mental health problems"

01/10/21 -  Newcastle Crown Court - PA

A conspiracy theorist from Gateshead who caused damage worth more than £100,000 by torching a 5G mast has walked free from court.

Newcastle Crown Court heard David Patterson, who has schizophrenia, was suffering from a mental disorder at the time and had been adversely influenced by the material he had read online.

"Delusional" online theories about the dangers posed by the technology sparked the drastic action and arson attack in Wardley Garage, on Sunderland Road in the early hours of June 22 last year.He set fire to one of the masts above a garage, causing between £100,000 and £150,000 damage to the mast and around £15,000 damage to the business.

Patterson had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication intended to kill himself but an officer persuaded him not to, the court heard.After reading mental health reports on him, Judge Sarah Mallett imposed a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work and rehabilitation.The judge said at a previous hearing: "He believed he was protecting his family and others, in reality, from the harm he thinks, in his delusional beliefs, was coming from the aerial."

Prosecutor Alec Burns, said: "He admitted he set fire to the mast, saying because it was 5G and he believed it was dangerous."

Mr Burns said it had been difficult to repair the mast and it will have to be replaced, which will cost between £100,000 and £150,000.Repairs to the garage would add up to almost £17,000, the court heard.

The court heard Patterson was admitted to a psychiatric hospital the day after the offence and has started taking his medication again and is making good progress.

He added that he is aware conspiracy theories are not good for his mind and said: "I just want to spend lovely time with my lovely friends and family."