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Court / Supervision and compensation order for starting fire in care home

Lerwick Sheriff Court.Lerwick Sheriff Court.

A MAN who started a fire in a north mainland care home which “could have had fatal consequences” has avoided a custodial sentence.

Jeremy Mortimer, of Stucca, Hillswick, was placed under supervision for 18 months and ordered to pay £2,000 in compensation when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

The 61-year old-previously admitted wilfully setting fire to a curtain at the North Haven care home in Brae on 3 February.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie told Lerwick Sheriff Court that Mortimer was spending the weekend in the care home.

At at around 5.30am nightshift staff heard the noise of Mortimer’s wheelchair in a corridor as he moved from his room into the smoking room.

Within a “minute of hearing him” a fire alarm was activated, with smoke detectors in some of the residents’ rooms also going off. There were 12 permanent residents in the home at the time.

The staff saw a “fiercely burning fire” with “thick black smoke” before tending to the blaze themselves with equipment in the care home while they waited for fire fighters to attend.

Mackenzie told court that by the time crew had arrived the fire had been extinguished. “It was clear that the fire was non-accidental,” he said.

The window behind the curtain had cracked due to the heat, while the floor and ceiling suffered some damage too, with the estimated cost of repairs totalling around £6,000.

The fiscal added that there was one occupied room in particular in the care home which, due to the location of the fire, meant there would have been no means of escape for its resident before the fire crew arrived.

Mackenzie told court that all of the residents staying in the care home were bed-bound, adding that if it was not for the quick actions of the nightshift staff the incident could have been “very serious”.

Mortimer told police when asked about the fire that he “must have done that”, the fiscal said, but he was not able to give a reason why.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Mortimer has since been involved in discussions about his past, which was described as “very difficult”.

He said that prison would be “fairly difficult” for his client, suggesting a focus should be on a community payback order instead.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank said the offence was “something for which I could effortlessly justify sending you to jail”.

“What makes me fall short of sending you to jail is because you appear effectively as a first offender, and I have to pay cognisance to that,” he added.

“I hope that you fully and unequivocally understand that this could have had fatal consequences, not only for you but for others who were incapacitated.”