Tayside and Central Scotland

Dundee man started fire out of 'community spirit'

A "sense of community spirit" prompted a man to set fire to boxes he had barricaded his neighbour's door with, a court heard.

John Robertson was annoyed when a new neighbour in his Dundee tenement block left boxes sitting on the landing for two weeks in February.

The 56-year-old set them on fire, leaving the neighbour and her three-year-old child trapped inside.

Robertson was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.

After repeatedly complaining that the boxes were a fire hazard, Robertson took matters into his own hands on 8 February.

His lawyer told Dundee Sheriff Court that the 56-year-old had lived in the block his entire life, and said there had previously been a sense of "community pride" in the tenement, with residents maintaining a rota to clean the communal stairwell and windows.

George Donnelly said his client felt new residents "trashing the place" had "buried his sense of community spirit" - although he accepted his actions in starting the fire were "totally illogical".

'Just madness'

Fire crews were called in after the woman noticed a smell of smoke, and found the cardboard boxes she had left outside her storage closet on the landing had been pushed up against the door and set alight.

Emergency services told her to shelter in a back room with her child until the fire was put out.

Robertson pleaded guilty to a charge of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner.

Imposing a community payback order, Sheriff Elizabeth Munro said: "It's really sad to see somebody like you standing here in court for the first time at the age of 56.

"It was just madness from your point of view."

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