A MAN has been convicted of arson after setting fire to one of his partner's dresses in the garden when their relationship broke down.

The court heard that Kenneth Weston, 38, had numerous convictions for violence and since getting together with his partner in 2003 there had been ‘many, many call-outs’ by police to their home.

The father-of-four, of Welbeck Avenue, Darlington, pleaded guilty to arson and resisting arrest when he appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court.

John Garside, prosecuting, said: "The victim has been in a relationship with Mr Weston and it has broken down.

"He was in the rear garden of her property, removed one of her dresses from the washing line, put it into a metal drum and burned it, with a child's rubber ring.

"She has been alerted by someone that some of her property has been set alight and police came out, arrested the defendant, tried to put the handcuffs on and he has pulled away and resisted arrest. Police have taken him into the garden to prevent any injuries."

Weston said he had only burned the clothes because his partner had burned his clothes the day before.

A probation report said officers had had a 'difficult and lengthy' interview with Weston as he refused to talk about previous domestic incidents and had a 'totally different version of events' to his partner.

He denied making phonecalls to her threatening to slash tyres and burn her clothes. The probation report said the couple had been together since school and there had been many problems and police call-outs, mainly due to Weston returning home drunk and his partner calling the police.

He made claims his partner 'made up stories' to have him removed from the property by police so she could take heroin.

Probation said he needed intervention to address relationship issues and anger management.

District Judge Timothy Capstick gave him an 18-month community order but no restraining order was imposed.