Father, 56, deliberately set fire to house with his children and their friends inside

Philip Jones, 56, previously admitted arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered. Credit: Media Wales

A father deliberately set fire to his house with his children and their friends inside it, a court has heard.

Philip Jones, 56, committed arson at his three-bed terraced property on Chepstow Road in Cwmparc, Treorchy, on 6 September last year.

Jones made threats to burn down the house and told his children to leave before starting the blaze near the gas metre in the living room, Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard.

His son, daughter, daughter's partner and two friends escaped the property without any injuries.

During sentencing, the court heard how the defendant's action stemmed from the effects drug use had on his mental state, with his behaviour becoming "increasingly strange" in the week leading to the incident, according to his daughter.

The blaze, which was started in the living room, blew the windows out in the family home. Credit: Media Wales

Jones' son said on the day of the fire his father was "shouting a lot of angry comments" and was "in a mood," while his daughter described his as "paranoid" and looking "pale."

His daughter and her partner were upstairs with two friends when they heard the defendant shout: "You guys better get out. I'm going to set this house on fire right now."

At first they did not know whether he was being serious, but started to leave the house when he repeated the threat.

His son was playing on a games console in his room when he heard the alarm go off and saw smoke outside his bedroom door.

He initially thought his sister had left a candle on.

Prosecutor Jac Brown said his sister told him to leave and said he saw "a large fire and smoke emanating from the front room" as he exited the house.

He shouted for the family's two dogs but Jones had removed them from the house shortly before starting the fire.

The fire caused damage worth £15,000, with repairs taking eight weeks, according to an asset management officer.

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Prosecutor Mr Brown said Jones' son was "angry" and warned "the situation could have been different because he was about to fall asleep at the time," while his daughter had been left "confused and upset" by what happened.

Defending Stephen Thomas said the incident was "completely out of character" for the father.

He argued his guilty plea was the best mitigation, having previously admitted arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered.

He added the defendant's drug use had "a big impact on his mental health, his behaviours, and actions over the year," impacting "all aspects of his life".

He added the death of Jones' partner - the mother of his children - had caused his mental state to deteriorate "rapidly" as he increased his misuse of cannabis.

The court heard how his depression "deepened" due to cannabis misuse, with his mental health improving whilst he was in custody as he stopped taking the drug.

Talking about Jones' time in custody, Mr Thomas said: "He has had time to reflect upon what he has done and understands the enormity of it.

He continued: "He has expressed remorse and regret of this and understands he has lost his family as a result of his behaviour."

Sentencing, the judge said the case gave a warning to "anyone who thinks that cannabis is not a harmful drug," and said the impact of using it had been "profound."

However, he added: "You do not suffer from a mental illness – what you did stemmed from the effects of drug use upon your mental state. That is not mitigation."

The judge praised Jones for using his time in custody "constructively" and added he was "noted as being hard working" when off drugs.

He was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, half of which will be spent in custody before being released on licence for the remainder.

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