AN ARSONIST who set a fire in the doorway of a flat belonging to a couple and their baby has been given a community order to sort out his heavy drinking.

Conner Learoyd was seen stumbling along Pensbury Street, Darlington, trying door handles before being moved along by residents.

However, the 26-year-old then started the fire on a neighbouring flat when he tied a bag to the door handle before wandering off, leaving behind his bank card and driver's licence.

Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said the couple were awoken by a disturbance outside their flat, opened to the door to see the flames before retreating back inside.

He added: "Various neighbours had attended and were making valiant attempts to try and put the fire out by extinguishing it with water.

"The residents managed to leave via different door."

Mr Walker said it took the efforts of a fire crew to extinguish the flames, which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the property.

In a victim impact statement, the mother said: "At the time I was shocked and angry about why someone would do this to me, I felt insecure and unable to sleep properly, especially until the front door was replaced a month later."

Learoyd, of, Huxley Grove, Darlington, pleaded guilty to arson and vehicle interference following the offences on August 25, 2019.

Michele Turner, in mitigation, urged the judge to spare her client from another prison sentence after struggling with custody previously.

Judge Recorder Nathan Adams sentenced Learoyd to a two year community order including an alcohol treatment programme and rehabilitation activity days..

He said: "It seems to me that sentencing you to prison for a period of time will do very little to address you re-offending in the future, indeed it may have a severe detrimental affect on you and make it more likely to fall back into this pattern upon your release from prison."