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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Chapel of rest arson man spared prison

A MAN who started a fire at the chapel of rest in a Cumbrian cemetery has been spared a prison sentence.

A judge at Carlisle Crown Court that though Matthew James Atkinson-Skinner, 24, deserved to go to prison, it would be better for the community if instead he received help to overcome the alcohol problems that led him to commit the arson attack.

The court heard that on the night of May 3 when he started the fire, Atkinson-Skinner had had a “huge amount to drink”.

He was making his way back at midnight to a Kirkby Stephen campsite – where he was staying following the breakdown of a relationship – when he reached the cemetery.

At the chapel of rest, he broke a window and climbed into a store room.

He poured petrol from a lawn mower onto a mattress and set it alight. The fire spread, causing damage estimated at £20,000.

When interviewed by police, Atkinson-Skinner, who has a number of previous convictions, said he broke into the cemetery chapel to see what he could steal. He had earlier attempted a break-in at the town’s Co-op.

Atkinson-Skinner, of Green Head Barn, Great Asby, pleaded guilty to arson and attempted burglary.

Judge Peter Hughes QC put him under probation supervision for three years and ordered him to undergo alcohol rehabilitation.

He was also made to do 250 hours unpaid community work.

The judge told him: “There will be many people in the community who would say that anybody who does something like this deserves only one thing – a loss of their liberty.”

But he added: “What you actually need is direct intervention to try to ensure that you can overcome your drinking problem. You are going to need such intervention for a very significant period of time.

“For that reason and that reason alone I am not going to send you to prison.”

The judge said if he did not comply with the order he would be brought back to court and sent to prison.

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