Homeless men who started fire at Burslem property to ‘keep warm’ jailed


Two men who deliberately caused a fire in an unoccupied Stoke-on-Trent house have been jailed today (January 31).

James Pledger, 26, of no fixed address and Lee Jones, 44, of Stevenson Road, Bucknall, were arrested for arson offences after causing a fire at the property on Lower Street, Burslem.

The defendants broke into the unoccupied house at around 7.30am on December 2 of last year, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court was told.

The court heard how they set fire to furniture in an upstairs bedroom and police were alerted by neighbours who heard the smoke alarms.

Prosecuting, Dean Easthope, told the court that when the police arrived the two men were found hiding behind a settee in a downstairs room and were then arrested.

A firearm was later found by police on Pledger, which he admitted he first came into contact with when he stole a box from an open vehicle.

He told the court that he did not know what was in the box until he forced it open later that day, where he discovered the firearm and a firearm magazine.

Defending Pledger, Stuart Muldoon, said that the defendant had the handgun because of ‘his own criminal offending’, but he did not intend to use it.

Defending father-of-one, Jones, Samina Rashid, said: “He is a long standing drug addict who has been using drugs since the age of 14, but is making positive progress.

“The men were looking for warmth on the day that the offence was committed.”

Jones was sentenced to three years for arson and for being reckless as to whether life was endangered, which will run consecutively to his 26-week suspended sentence.

Pledger was sentenced to two years for arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered and five years for possession of a firearm, which he will serve consecutively.

Jailing Pledger, Judge Fletcher, said: “This was a weapon that was initially probably not a weapon. It had been adapted and it was capable of firing live ammunition.

“You were not to have known that and you thought you would be able to sell them.

“The more of them there is on our streets and towns, the more dangerous the world is.”


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