Seaton alcoholic jailed for setting fire to his flat

Simon Tolley

Simon Tolley - Credit: Archant

Judge said the blaze posed a real risk to the lives of others

A 55-unit-a-day alcoholic has been jailed for setting light to his Seaton flat after an all-day drinking spree.

Simon Tolley had drunk a litre of vodka and 20 cans of lager before he started a blaze under the kitchen floorboards.

He was rescued semi-conscious by firefighters who were alerted because of a smoke alarm which they had fitted just minutes earlier.

The incident happened on August 18, 2013. Tolley, 48, called firefighters to a false alarm at his flat earlier that night after smelling smoke. They found no fire but installed the alarm which saved his life when he started his fire just after midnight.

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He had pulled up floorboards and used scraps of tissue and paper to light the blaze next to the boiler.

He slumped on to his bed in a drunken stupor and was rescued when firemen broke down his front door, Exeter Crown Court was told.

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At the time, Tolley was on a suspended sentence for an earlier arson at the Balmoral Hotel in Weston-super-Mare in which he set light to a laundry room in revenge for other guests complaining about his loud music.

A chronic alcoholic, his weekly consumption was calculated at 390 units, the equivalent of drinking 25 pints or half a litre of pure alcohol a day.

It had already caused him to suffer from throat cancer, rotten teeth, high blood pressure, arthritis and alcohol-induced depression and anxiety.

He said he had no memory of starting the fire but later told a psychiatrist he may have been trying to take his own life.

Tolley, of Queen Street, Seaton, admitted arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

He was jailed for four years with a two-year extended licence by Judge Phillip Wassall, who told him: “Despite the fact there was nobody else in the other flats at the time, I cannot ignore the really serious risk that this fire would have taken hold and spread to other properties and caused a real risk to the lives of others as well as to the firefighters. I find you are a dangerous offender.”

Mr Tom Bradnock, defending, said Tolley has tackled his alcoholism while in jail on remand and has impressed tutors with his determination to remain abstinent on his release.

He said: “This offence happened on a day which was like most of his adult life and taken up with drinking anything up to a litre of vodka and 20 cans of lager. He now recognises he was drinking up to 390 units a week.

“He now appreciates the effect that had on him and those around him and how it contributed to his offending behaviour. He realises he was killing himself through his alcoholic consumption.”

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