Man is jailed for six months after starting a fire on top of eighteen mattresses in Ballymena hostel where he lived

The Simon Community hostel in Ballymena’s Henry Street. Picture: Google Maps.

A man who set fire to a coat he placed on top of 18 mattresses inside a hostel during the Christmas holidays has been told it was lucky alert staff watching on CCTV and the flames were quickly put out.

Anthony Martin Shortt (30), had been staying at the Simon Community at Henry Street in Ballymena when he started the fire on December 29 last year.

He appeared before the court via video link from Maghaberry Prison, where he has been on remand, after previously pleading guilty to arson.

A prosecutor said police received a report from Simon Community staff that the defendant set fire to a coat belonging to another resident and the incident had been caught on CCTV.

The court heard the coat was put on top of 18 mattresses and staff said if they had not been watching the cameras the flames could have spread.

Police found Shortt was in possession of three lighters.

Defence barrister Stephen Law said the defendant had not stacked up the mattresses.

He said Shortt, who struggled with addiction issues, had moved into the hostel a month before the incident.

Mr Law said the defendant set fire to the coat because it belonged to a person he accused of stealing his mobile phone.

Jailing Shortt for six months, District Judge Nigel Broderick said arson is a serious offence and that when any fire starts it can get out of control.

He said thankfully the flames had been detected early due to the alert staff.

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