Schizophrenic torched his Leeds flat after hearing voices accusing him of being a paedophile
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Nicholas Alexander Levison put his neighbours’ lives at risk when he set fire to his curtains at the block of four flats on All Saints’ Circle in Woodlesford, then left the building. Leeds Crown Court heard that the 49-year-old then contacted the emergency services a short time later at around 2am on September 6 last year.
Calling from a phone box on Commercial Street in Rothwell, two miles from his home, he told them he was hearing voices, had a personality disorder and confessed to them: “I have had a breakdown and set fire to my curtains.”
Prosecutor Katherine Robinson said his sleeping neighbours had got out of the block uninjured, but one woman, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), said she “would have died” had her neighbour not raised the alarm.
Levison’s first-floor flat suffered such significant damage it could not be fully ascertained if the fire had been started deliberately, but it was concluded that the seat of the blaze was consistent with curtains being set on fire.
Levison told officers that he had been hearing voices for six years, and that night they had called him a paedophile, leading him to set fire to the flat. He has numerous previous convictions, many for criminal damage.
Mitigating, Sean Smith said that Levison had accepted responsibility “from the outset” and admitted a charge of arson which was reckless as to whether life was endangered. He said that the guilty plea was entered at the first opportunity, after a psychiatric report was completed.
Judge Christopher Batty gave Levison a hospital order, rather than prison, meaning he will continue to receive treatment at a secure unit.
He said: “It’s a long-standing illness. There’s a risk you would commit further offences if not detained. You have been a long-term sufferer of paranoid schizophrenia and it’s clear in September of last year you were very unwell.
"It caused a significant amount of damage and there were concerns, worry and anxiety for your neighbours. They could have easily been caught up more seriously and physically injured by what you did.”