A vengeful arsonist set fire to a parked car belonging to the mother of his ex-partner, a court was told.

The incident took place only weeks after Christopher Forster was made subject of a restraining order, forbidding him from contacting or approaching his former partner and her mother, or going to the streets where they live.

Durham Crown Court heard that the first breach took place exactly a month after the three-year order was put in place on March 28, 2023, five years after Forster’s seven-year abusive relationship with the woman came to an end.

Andrew Pickin, prosecuting, said on April 28, last year, Forster approached a car containing the woman and her children, who were awaiting her sister emerging from a shop.

The Northern Echo: Christopher Forster jailed at Durham Crown Court for arson attack on car belonging to the mother of

Despite his ex-partner telling him to leave as he was breaching the restraining order, he tried to communicate with the children, who were said to be “scared” by his approach.

Foster then left and went into the shop, but his ex-partner felt so uneasy she had CCTV cameras installed outside her home, as did her mother.

Mr Pickin said the next incident took place at 2.25am on May 12, last year, when the mother of Forster’s ex-partner was informed her Vauxhall Corsa, parked outside her home, was on fire.

She came out to see the car well alight and so the fire brigade was alerted.

The fire service described it was a “substantial” and well-developed fire and had to use high pressure hoses to extinguished the flames, but her car, worth £1,665, was left a write-off.

Examination of her CCTV showed Forster, with part of his face covered, approaching the car, pouring accelerant over it and igniting it, sending the car up in flames.

In her victim statement, Forster’s ex-partner described how much anxiety she had been put through by him, leaving her constantly on edge, worried as to what the next incident would be.

She said the fact he had been in custody for some months had made her life, “calmer”.

When Forster was interviewed he admitted the first breach of the order but denied he was the person on the footage setting light to the car, in Craghead, near Stanley.

The 32-year-old defendant, of Keswick Road, Stanley, admitted one breach of the restraining order, but denied the second as well as the arson attack.

But he was convicted of both contested counts after a trial at the court, last November.

The Northern Echo: Christopher Forster given a 60-month prison sentence for arson and made subject of ten-year

Following preparation of a Probation Service pre-sentence report and a psychiatric assessment, Forster appeared for sentence at the court today (Monday April 8) via video link from nearby HMP Durham, where he has been held on remand for now 11 months since his arrest.

The hearing was told much of his past offending, among eight convictions for 14 offences, is for violence, stalking and breaching previous orders relating to his ex-partner.

Mr Pickin said the arson offence could be considered, “a revenge attack”, given the defendant’s history.

The Northern Echo:

Kelly Clarke, representing Forster, told the court he has had a long period in custody to reflect on his past behaviour towards women, which was, “not conducive to forming proper relationships”.

Miss Clarke said: “He knows he should have gone through the family courts and his behaviour in the past was unacceptable.”

She said her client suffers with a condition causing seizures, but has bot been prescribed with the correct medication recently in custody.

Judge Jo Kidd said whichever institution Foster is sent to serve his prison sentence ought to address the defendant’s issues over his medication.

The judge, who presided over Foster’s trial, in November, said he had behaved in, “a persistently aggressive, threatening and violent” manner during the relationship with his ex-partner.

Then, after the end of the relationship, she told Foster: “You seem incapable of exercising any self-control regarding your behaviour”, relating to the previous orders put in place by the courts.

“Both she and her mother put in cctv at their homes, due to their understandable concerns over your behaviour and the risk you presented.”

Judge Kidd said the arson attack, during which he was, “clearly under the influence of intoxicants”, was, “a pre-meditated, vengeful, act.”

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She said he caused a significant blaze, which took some prolonged work by the fire service to extinguish to prevent the flames spreading to other vehicle parked in the same street.

Imposing a five-year prison sentence, she made Forster subject of a new ten-year restraining order relating to both his ex-partner and her mother.

Judge Kidd said she hoped the sentence passed and the orders imposed would provide some, “much-needed protection” for both his victims.