Arsonist who caused £45k of damage to vintage train carriage at Dean Forest Railway sentenced

Alan Dickinson, chairman of Dean Forest Railway, told the court that the cost of repairing the fire damage amounted to £45,000. Credit: Gloucestershire News Service

A man who caused £45,000 worth of damage to a vintage train carriage has been given a one-year jail sentence suspended for two years.

Paul Irving, 26, set fire to a vintage train carriage at Lydney Junction in Gloucestershire on 24 March last year.

The station, which is looked after by the Dean Forest Railway Society, is part of a heritage line and is only a short distance from the main rail network.

The train carriage on fire was due to be restored and was close to nine other vintage carriages.

Leuan Callaghan, prosecuting, told the court that when the emergency services arrived the large carriage was collapsing.

He added that the smoke caused delays on the main commuter network, by triggering emergency signalling warning train drivers to slow to a crawl.

Mr Callaghan said that the police officers searching the site found three people hiding amongst the trees.

“The police officers searching the site found that a digger had been tampered with and three people, two men and a woman, were hiding under a canopy," he said.

Paul Irving was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

The court was told that initially Kayleigh Toomey, 28, had admitted responsibility for the arson - but her confession was later rejected following a statement from Irving.

In the statement, Irving explained how he had found a can of red diesel and poured it over the carriage before using his own lighter to set it alight, the court heard.

Irving also told police in his statement that once the emergency services arrived he decided to hide - an action which, he said, was his "normal practice."

Simon Kitchen, mitigating, said: “Irving pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, during his police interview. This offence occurred some 19 months ago and he has stayed out of trouble since then.“Irving is a man who is easily led and it was somebody else’s suggestion that the carriage was set on fire. After initially refusing, he reluctantly obliged," he added.

Judge Ian Lawrie KC interjected: “This was a piece of mindless vandalism against a charitable organisation that he indulged in. He entered the carriage, which was somebody else’s property, where they shouldn’t have been in the first place, and set fire to it.”Mr Kitchen continued: “There is no valid reason or explanation as to why he carried out the arson. But he does suffer from anxiety, paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder."

Judge Lawrie sentenced Irving to a suspended one-year jail term at a hearing at Gloucester Crown Court.

Speaking to Irving, he said: "You were somewhere where you shouldn't have been. You appeared to have nothing better to do. The damage you caused will cost the organisation some £45,000 to repair, far more than the planned restoration costs.

"I accept you have mental health issues, but this offence crossed the custody threshold and therefore this will be a prison term of 12 months, but it will be suspended for two years,."

During the hearing, Judge Lawrie ordered that Irving attend 30 programme sessions, undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and attend monthly judicial reviews.

He said: "If you feel you are faltering, cast your mind back to the couple of hours in the cells because that could be your life if you don’t take this opportunity to turn it around."