A drunken homeless man threatened a hospital employee – and later started fires outside the hospital and at the door of Leamington police station.
Jailing David Horton for 12 months, a judge at Warwick Crown Court told him that, even though he did not intend to cause any harm, his offending ‘rises above mere nuisance.’
Horton (53) of no fixed address, had pleaded guilty to using threatening behaviour and two charges of arson.
Prosecutor David Jackson said that on August 26 a maintenance supervisor at Stratford Hospital received a report of a drunken man behaving aggressively.
He found Horton on a stairwell with a can of beer in one hand and a hospital emergency evacuation mattress, used for moving infirm patients in the event of an emergency, in the other.
When he was challenged, Horton responded: “I’m taking this. I’ll f***ing stab you.”
The supervisor defiantly told him that was up to him, but that he still had to leave and could not take the evacuation mattress with him, and he eventually left.
A week later, the hospital catering department’s duty manager could smell smoke, and assumed it was coming from the kitchen – but then realised it was coming from outside a window.
Outside she found a small fire in a corner against a wall, and put it out with a fire extinguisher.
It was a jacket, and in the pocket was some paperwork with Horton’s name on it, said Mr Jackson.
The following week, Horton went to Leamington police station where he was caught by a CCTV camera as he kicked the glass doors and then set light to something in his hand.
It turned out to be a notebook which Horton, who was described as being ‘incredibly intoxicated,’ threw on the floor where it went out.
After he had been arrested, Horton, whose many previous convictions included thefts, causing damage, threatening behaviour and racially aggravated harassment, said he was there because he had been told he was wanted on recall to prison, although in fact he was not.
Olivia Whitworth, defending, said: “I am instructed to ask whether any sentence could be suspended. This is a man with a history of mental health issues and problems with alcohol.
“These events occurred because he was released from custody and placed in shared accommodation where he was the victim of an assault, leading to him sleeping rough.”
She said he had gone to see his GP, but was told he could not be seen because of the pandemic, so he bought some beer and, in the state he got into, he believed his problems were linked to the jacket he had been given on his release, so set light to it.
Miss Whitworth added that Horton, who prior to his arrest had signed up for various courses including IT, ‘wants to change.’
But jailing Horton, Recorder William Edis QC told him: “You have had chronic mental health problems that have affected your life in all aspects.
“As a result you have acquired a very long criminal record. You have offended and been locked up many times. That is an undesirable situation, but there is very little I can do about that today.
"You were wandering around the hospital grounds drunk and behaving aggressively, and you had a can of beer in one hand and some hospital property in the other.
“People who work in the public health service have a right to go about their jobs without being threatened with being stabbed by people taking NHS property and without being put at risk by arson.
“Arson is considered a serious offence because fires are not predictable or controllable. It rises above mere nuisance. I have to show that setting fires in unacceptable, even if you intend no harm.”