A man who admits setting fire to his partner’s home is to undergo assessment of his mental health as he claims to have been hearing “voices” at the time of the offence.

Ryan Atkinson was told that “ordinarily” such an arson attack would attract a prison sentence rising from four years, upwards.

The 22-year-old defendant admitted a charge of reckless arson at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court, on November 6.

The Northern Echo: Durham Crown Court heard that defendant Ryan Atkinson claimed to have been hearing 'voices' at time

It related to the unlawful destruction by fire of a property belonging to Karbon Homes, in Ash Terrace, Leadgate, near Consett, on Saturday October 7.

He also admitted sending a grossly offensive message to a woman on the same date.

But today's (Tuesday December 19) scheduled sentencing hearing at Durham Crown Court was told that mental health concerns were raised in his pre-sentence probation report after he mentioned “hearing voices” prior to the commission of the offence.

Recorder Gurdial Singh said he would want that confirming or dismissed by way of psychiatric evidence by an expert prior to him passing sentence.

“The offence is troubling in itself and normally it would come hand in glove with a psychiatric report.

“On the face of it, the starting point for sentence is one of four years.

“It will clearly have a potential effect on the likely outcomes available to the court.

“Clearly there is a need for the defendant to agree to engage with anyone instructed to carry out that report.

“It’s a matter for the defence. If it’s been overlooked, it’s been overlooked.”

Addressing the defendant, Recorder Singh said: “You referred to hearing voices and, in my view, there should be a psychiatric report to see what, if anything, is revealed by examination of you, as it will effect how you are dealt with.”

Atkinson, who was appearing via video link from nearby Durham Prison, where he has been on remand following his arrest, told Recorder Singh: “It was when I was on drugs, using cannabis and cocaine.

“I’m feeling a lot better now I’m off drugs.”

Recorder Singh told him: “Clearly you are looking at a substantial prison term, but the court needs every possible detail about you.

See more court stories from The Northern Echo by clicking here

Couple 'cowered' in bathroom trapped in fire-hit Coundon Grange home

County Durham arsonist used firework to start fire in house

Defendant set light to sofa causing fire at rented property in Consett

Get the latest news, sports, and entertainment delivered straight to your device by subscribing to The Northern Echo ... just click here. 

“We need to know if its drug-induced or something more deep-seated.”

He remanded the defendant, of Charlton Court, Bowburn, to remain in custody, pending preparation of the medical report.

Reminding Atkinson that the starting point for the sentence is categorised as one of four years, he told him he would learn his fate upon completion of the psychiatric assessment and an addendum to the existing Probation Service pre-sentence report, on Wednesday February 14.


https://whatsapp.com/channel/0029VaB3L37BFLgQwTNPFo2a">https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/resources/images/17547477/?type=article-full" />