AN ARSONIST who set an elderly lady’s bin on fire after she spurned his late-night request for a cuddle has been spared jail.
Michael Owen, from Ince, was given a suspended sentence by justices following the bizarre incident in which two black council bins were damaged.
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court was told how Owen, 24, turned up on the doorstep of Sarah Hogan’s house at around 10.30pm on Wednesday, February 27, and asked her for an embrace.
The court heard that Ms Hogan, 76, told Owen to leave as it was late.
He walked away, but returned a few minutes later and set fire to her bin and another one belonging to her neighbour.
Owen, who was arrested at his mother’s house in Battersby Street but gave his girlfriend’s house in Ince Green Lane as his address, pleaded guilty to arson and admitted he could offer very little explanation for his actions.
He acknowledged he had been drinking but denied he was drunk.
The court heard that Ms Hogan was known to Owen, being a friend of the family and a great-aunt to one of his relatives.
Nicola Ormerod, prosecuting, said Ms Hogan watched Owen stand near the bins at the front of her property and lift the lid of her bin, before seeing smoke issue from it shortly after he walked off.
She also said Owen had a string of 20 convictions for 34 offences dating back to 2008, including a previous incident of arson in August last year.
Martin Jones, defending, said his client suffered from learning difficulties, which meant he was entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and accepted what he had done despite having little recollection of it.
Mr Jones said: “I have asked him why on earth he did this and knocked on the door of a woman who knows his family.
“He said he couldn’t really explain it.
“Thankfully the incident has caused minimal damage, but my client does not dispute the evidence and accepts his guilt.”
He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, to be suspended for 12 months, and given a 17-week curfew confining him indoors between 7pm and 7am.
The sentences will run alongside a 12-month community order requiring supervision and participation in a work programme, which lasts until January 2014.