A convicted arsonist who set fire to an apartment in Limerick avoided jail yesterday when he gave an undertaking at Limerick Circuit Court to stay off drink and drugs.
A defence lawyer said Gary Mason, aged 25, of Lord Edward St, Limerick, had kicked a drugs and drink habit and become a Christian thanks to an outreach group developed for New York street gangs and was now on a “journey to recovery”. He has “turned his life” around, the court heard.
Over €15,000 worth of damage was caused to a ground-floor apartment on Limerick’s South Circular Rd on December 5, 2010, after it was set alight by Mason.
Residents from all eight apartments in the block had to be evacuated and the court was told there was the potential for significant loss of life.
Mason admitted setting the fire in his neighbour’s apartment as he believed this man had stolen his laptop.
He has a number of previous convictions, including one for arson.
Michael Fitzgibbon, defending, said Mason began taking drugs at age 13 but in June 2013, he became involved with Tiglin Challenge, a Christian-based organisation formed to help members of New York street gangs. It has a base in Arklow.
Judge Carroll Moran said arson was one of the most serious crimes on the statute book and there could have been a serious loss of life if the fire had taken off in any dramatic way.
He imposed a four-year sentence, suspended for five years if Mason stays off drugs and drink and obeys the directions of the Probation Service.
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