County Derry man sentenced for arson

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A county Derry man who was found guilty of setting fire to a police car and of trying to set fire to a second police vehicle has narrowly escaped being sent to jail.

James McLaughlin - who Belfast Crown Court heard had a ‘heavily strained’ relationship with the PSNI following what he perceived was animal cruelty to his sheep - received a three-year prison sentence, which was suspended for three years.

McLaughlin, from Glenshane Road in Feeny, faced several charges arising from an incident at the home he shares with his parents on September 8, 2012.

After dismissing his legal team, McLaughlin chose not to attend his own trial which was held in June and he was not represented in court by a legal team.

In his absence, the jury heard that when police were called to attend the incident and were greeted by a bare-chested McLaughlin, who was brandishing a hurley bat and who also had a lighter and a petrol can.

McLaughlin then poured petrol over the bonnet of one police vehicle which took hold very quickly, while he made an attempt to set fire to the second police car.

Following the trial the 32-year-old was found guilty of arson and attempted arson.

Passing sentence earlier this week, Judge Kerr said McLaughlin ‘still refuses to accept culpability’.

Judge Kerr said: “It is quite clear that he has a complete obsession in relation to the damage he says was caused to his sheep. This had led to all the aggression between him and the police, and virtually every organisation he had been in contact with.”