Chesterfield businessman torched accountant’s office in “revenge attack”
A 44-year-old Chesterfield businessman set his accountant’s office alight in a bizarre “revenge attack” over a perceived wrong.
Richard Harrington started the blaze by dousing three cushions in lighter fluid.
Firefighters were called out to the building at Sheepbridge Industrial Estate on October 10 last year - to tackle the fire which caused £8,000 damage.
Derby Crown Court heard how Harrington - who owns Dunston Lodge dog kennels - started the fire in an “extremely befuddled” state - believing he was paying too much tax.
The divorced father-of-two accessed accountant David Potter’s office at Sheepbridge Industrial Estate using a pin code given to him by a female employee named “Miss Simpkins” who he was having an affair with.
Harrington and Mr Potter’s employee then met the day after the fire, at a pub.
Prosecutor Samuel Lowne said: “When they met they agreed it would be sensible to delete the messages between the two of them.
“When the defendant was arrested from his flat unbeknown to them Miss Simpkins was hiding in the flat at that time.”
Mr Lowne said no further action was taken against Miss Simpkins.
Harrington’s counsel Tim Gaubert said Harrington was “having something approaching a breakdown when he embarked on this extremely foolhardy and incredibly dangerous incident”.
Mr Gaubert described how Harrington - whose drinking had got “completely out of control” had a “multiplicity of stresses” at the time of the arson attack.
Businessman Harrington’s Newbold dog boarding kennels was “very, very severely affected by Covid lockdown” - forcing him to furlough 15 staff.
The lawyer added: “His financial woes were exacerbated by his divorce in 2016 - that contributed to an extremely parlous financial situation.
“He bears Mr Potter no malice but in his extremely befuddled thinking he set about this enterprise.”
The fire was contained quickly and caused only smoke damage.
Sentencing Harrington Judge Shaun Smith QC told him: “You’re 44 years of age and of previous exemplary character.
“I’ve read a number of references written on your behalf speaking in the highest terms - all of them shocked that you did what you did.
“I think you too are shocked by what you were capable of - what you were capable of was going out of revenge because of some perception that you might have been wronged by your accountant.”
Judge Smith said Harrington was “fuelled” by information from his partner at the time - Miss Simpkins - who “avoided any criminal responsibility”.
He added: “I’m not quite sure what you thought you were going to achieve - it was a pretty ham-fisted attempt.
“But it caused nearly £8,000-worth of damage - you were never going to get away with it because it would have been caught on any number of CCTV cameras that you knew existed.”
Judge Smith said it was clear Harrington’s mental health was “extremely poor” - becoming “more and more isolated” during lockdown.
Harrington, of Dunston Lane, Newbold, admitted arson. He was jailed for 12 months suspended for two years and made to pay £425 court costs and £100 compensation.
He was also given 40 rehabilitation activity days and told not to contact his victim for two years.