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Thursday, 05 March 2015

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Man lit deodorant to use like flamethrower at hostel, court told

A “severely disturbed” man set another inmate’s trousers on fire after being sent to a Carlisle hostel following repeated attacks on his pregnant girlfriend.

Rhys Norris, 21, suffers from mental difficulties for which he has spent time in a psychiatric hospital and which now require “proper structured treatment”, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

His problems – which include anti-social personality disorder as well as suicidal tendencies – are too serious for him to live safely in the community, but not bad enough to be detained in a mental hospital.

He was at Carlisle Crown Court for four offences of assault – three on his ex-girlfriend and one on the man in the hostel.

Prosecuting counsel Jonathan Dickinson told the court Norris had been in a stormy three-year relationship with his partner, Jade Cowperthwaite.

In October, when she was 36 weeks pregnant, he started arguing with her at his sister’s house, kicking her on the shin and, after she retreated to her car outside, lunging at her and knocking her to the ground.

Later that same day he grabbed hold of her and pushed her against a doorway at their home, leaving her so “scared and hyperventilating” she had to drive herself to hospital amid fears for her unborn baby.

Norris went away for a couple of days – as he often did when he got his benefits money, Mr Dickinson said, and Ms Cowperthwaite told him she did not want him back.

But he turned up at her house and lunged at her when she told him to leave. She locked herself in her car for safety until the police arrived.

Norris was then sent to live at the John Street hostel in Carlisle, but while there, Mr Dickinson said, he sprayed deodorant at a fellow resident, Andrew Davenport, and lit it so he could use it like a flamethrower.

Mr Davenport suffered a palm-sized burn on his leg, as well as singed eyebrows and eyelashes.

Norris, who now has no fixed address, pleaded guilty to the four assaults.

Judge Robert Brown imposed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, on condition that he lives where probation officers tell him to and accepts whatever medical treatment his doctors think is necessary. He banned Norris from having any contact with Ms Cowperthwaite.


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