Gateshead man risked 'Grenfell-style' fire in block of flats after leaving lit candle on bed

Drunken Josh Perkins left a lit candle in his bedroom while he went to consume more alcohol and to visit his friend in the flat opposite for a cigarette in October 2020. Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

A man has been jailed for reckless arson after he left a lit candle in his bedroom and almost caused a "Grenfell-type" fire in a block of flats.

Drunken Josh Perkins lit a scented candle to mask a nasty smell coming from his mattress but went to consume more alcohol and to visit his friend in the flat opposite for a cigarette.

While he was gone the candle set fire to his curtains and when he returned to his ninth-floor home, he was met with a blanket of smoke, a court heard.

He managed to raise the alarm before the fire spread to any other flats in the 12-storey block, which contains 67 homes, and the damage was limited to his bedroom.

As he was jailed for reckless arson, a judge at Newcastle Crown Court drew comparisons to the Grenfell fire disaster.

While Josh Perkins was gone the candle set fire to his curtains. Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

Judge Christopher Prince said: "The primary issue in a case such as this is the potential for very serious harm to have occurred. This occurred in a large block of flats.

"There can't be one person in this country who does not have an acute memory of the Grenfell fire. You left a candle burning when there was a clear and obvious risk.

"This was a fire recklessly caused in a large block of flats where very serious injury and death could have been caused to other people.

"It occurred because you were drunk and recklessly drunk."

A judge said there was potential for very serious harm to have occurred. Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

The blaze happened on the evening of 13 October 2020 at Newbolt Court, Gateshead.

When the fire service arrived they found fire and smoke damage in Perkins' bedroom and he was in the living room, intoxicated.

It was initially thought he had set the council flat alight on purpose but when interviewed he said he was alcohol dependant and had been consuming vodka and Strongbow.

Kate Barnes, prosecuting, said: "He said he had been getting ready for bed and he lit a scented candle on the bed to disguise the smell of urine coming from the bed.

"He said he left the room, intending to come back quickly but was gone for longer than he expected."

Josh Perkins was jailed for 29 months at Newcastle Crown Court. Credit: NCJMEDIA SYNDICATION

The cost of the damage was £1,000 but, including re-homing, the total cost to Gateshead Council was around £4,000.

Perkins, 30, now of Rose Street, Gateshead, who has eleven previous convictions, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and was jailed for 29 months.

Rachel Hedworth, mitigating, said he was remorseful and had not pleaded guilty straight away as he had difficulty accepting it was not just an accident.

She added: "He was urinating regularly and all over the place. On that particular day he had gone in the bedroom and the smell was overpowering.

"Without thinking, he put the candle on the bed and lit it. The headboard was right next to the wall and the curtains were draped on the bed. Very fortunately for him, no one was hurt and the damage was limited.

"It's an extremely sad background. He is an extremely vulnerable individual. He is an extremely caring individual and he has a number of mental health problems."

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