Doncaster man spared jail after arson attack on own home

editorial image

A man who ‘reached rock bottom’ amid work worries and separating from his wife narrowly avoided jail after admitting setting fire to his own home.

Estranged husband John Hobbs was rescued from his home in Cedric Road, Edenthorpe, after he set a kitchen table on fire.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the 52-year-old had been drinking and lit one of a set of photos he was looking at then went to bed.

The table top caught fire and the semi-detached home filled with smoke.

Thankfully, a neighbour saw the plumes of smoke coming from the property and called the emergency services.

Police officers managed to put out the fire with water and found Hobbs lying on the bed.

The court heard he initially refused to leave and officers were forced to leave the premises because of the thick, black smoke.

Hobbs was later arrested and taken to hospital for treatment.

Prosecutor Susan Evans said Hobbs and his wife Karen had recently separated.

She had moved into a rented home with their two children aged eight and 11.

Since then Hobbs had twice attempted to take his own life before lighting the fire at about 8.30pm on July 24.

Neighbour Patricia Richardson said if the fire had been started half an hour later she would have been in bed by then.

Richard Davies, defending, said Hobbs’ life had “reached rock bottom” at that stage and he had been drinking heavily.

He had problems with the property business he managed and this had a knock-on effect on his marriage.

Mr Davies said Hobbs could not remember much about the fire but since then his situation had improved.

He has engaged with the local mental health service and was taking medication.

Hobbs also begun running his business again and was renovating a property which he eventually hoped to move into.

He had also come to terms with his problems and his depression had lessened.

Hobbs admitted reckless arson but was spared jail.

Judge Simon Lawler said the offence was very much at the lower end of the scale.

He told Hobbs: “I can’t recall the last time, if ever, I didn’t impose an immediate prison sentence for a case of reckless arson.

“But I am taking an exceptional course because I can see no useful purpose in an immediate custodial sentence here.”

Hobbs was given an 18-month jail term suspended for two years, a supervision order and told to attend a domestic violence programme.