A MAN who twice started a blaze in his terraced house home in a failed suicide bid has been spared jail.

David Higgins, of Chalvey Road, Bicester, had already admitted two counts of arson.

Oxford Crown Court heard at his sentencing hearing yesterday how the 34-year old alcoholic twice lit up his Sanctuary Housing-owned home before telling police he wanted to die.

Outlining the case prosecutor Cathy Olliver said that the two incidents of arson had taken place at his Bicester accommodation on August 23 and October 28.

After starting the first fire at about 4pm using a heated pan, the court heard, Higgins had to be 'persuaded' to leave the home after he called the fire service.


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He later tried to get back into the house after the fire had been started at the first floor and police had to arrest him to keep him from going back inside.

Explaining his actions he said 'I thought f**k it, I will let it burn' and after the fire had been put out Higgins was later allowed to return back to his home.

Nine weeks after the fire on October 28, the court heard, he started a second blaze at the first floor of the terraced building, this time causing more damage than in the first incident.

That night he first told a neighbour that he had started another fire and asked them to call the fire service.


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When fire crews arrived they found the rear bedroom alight and smoke coming down the stairs to the ground floor.

Higgins was again arrested and he refused treatment for smoke inhalation before being taken to the police station.

He said he was in a 'low mood' and had drunk three bottles of wine that day, the court heard, before telling officers he had wanted to kill himself.

In mitigation at the hearing yesterday his defence barrister Michael Goold said that his client suffered from mental health problems and was 'self-medicating' with alcohol at the time of the offences.

He said: "These were suicide attempts, they were not deliberate attempts to damage property for the sake of it or put anybody else at risk.


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"He has got a good understanding of the risks of starting fires and does not present an interest in starting fires.

"The most important thing is he treats the underlying issue here, his mental health, it is his poor mental health that underlies the offence."

He added that his family, who appeared at court yesterday, were committed to helping him and would provide him with ongoing support.

Sentencing Judge Ian Pringle QC said he would be 'failing in his duty' if he were to not impose a jail sentence - albeit one that could be suspended.

He added that a hospital order would not be appropriate for Higgins.

He said: "Even though you at the time were not in a mental state to consider the consequences of your actions, if you look back on it you will probably appreciate quite how serious it could have been."

Higgins was handed eight months in jail for the first arson and 20 months for the second, both to be served concurrently and suspended for two years. He must also complete 25 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 180 hours unpaid work.