Chinese takeaway owner jailed after throwing fish guts over council staff and torching Civic Centre

He threw a table at a social worker on his first visit to the Civic Centre, shouted threats to blow up the building at front desk staff and placed a butane gas canister on the counter, telling them ‘next time it will be petrol’.

The owner of a Chinese takeaway has been jailed after he threw fish guts over council staff and setting fire to the Civic building.

Ming Chen, 36 who ran a Chinese restaurant in the town, was angry about a family dispute with social workers who took his four young children into care while his wife was in hospital.

Chen, from Barum Ware Way in Barnstable admitted reckless arson, battery, criminal damage, threatening behaviour and making a malicious phone call.

The takeaway owner paid two visits to the Civic Centre in Barnstable on January 7 and February 7.

On January 7 he was abusive to Devon County Council call centre staff and paid two visits to the Civic Centre. He shouted abuse, showed staff a butane canister, and told them ‘you’re dead. Next time it will be petrol’.

He threatened to blow up the building as he was hustled out but returned 25 minutes later with a bag full of fish guts which he threw at the screen and the paint which he poured outside the door. Staff were extremely scared because they thought it was flammable.

He came back shortly afterwards and threw a bag full of 'foul-smelling' fish guts ,from his restaurant, at the Covid screen, causing some to spatter through it onto one employee.

He also poured a black liquid outside the front door which staff feared was oil but which turned out to be black paint, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Chen’s final visit was at about 6.45 pm on February 7, when the Civic Centre was closed but two employees were still inside, working late. He set light to a tyre with a can of petrol outside the main door.

He later told police he did it as a protest against social services.

He was jailed for two years, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community service and 20 days of rehabilitation activities by Judge Timothy Rose, who banned him from going to the Civic Centre under a restraining order.

He told him: “You were angry with the social services and dealt with it in a completely inappropriate and criminal way. Over a period of time you were ruminating about what you thought of as a terrible unfairness and your actions escalated.

“Setting a fire in these circumstances was obviously an extremely dangerous and reckless act, made worse by a number of aggravating features.

“Whether it was a revenge attack, it was brought about by your continuing pattern of animosity against the council and its offices. There was significant planning and pre-meditation.”

Miss Laila Jhaveri, defending, said: "Chen was under great stress at the time because he was trying to sort out his family problems while working 11 hours a day in the kitchen of his take-away.

She added: "The fire posed little risk to life and was put out within six minutes by the fire service without spreading inside the building.

"Chen’s has not worked since his arrest and is helping his wife by taking their four children to school every day. He hopes to find work again soon so he can support his family and pay the mortgage on their home."