A MAN who set fire to a petrol canister outside a Bridport home has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Ronald Lawson Richardson, 56, appeared at Dorchester Crown Court to be sentenced after admitting a charge of arson.

The charge related to an incident on January 25 and related to a property in North Allington.

Prosecutor Heather Shimmen said the woman who lived at the property was watching television in the living room with a friend when she heard what ‘sounded like an explosion’ coming from the front of the house.

Miss Shimmen said: “She walked towards the front of the house and saw flames outside the living room window.”

She said the woman went outside and attempted to put out the fire, which reached her own height, out but was unable to and her friend called the emergency services.

The fire service arrived promptly and put out the blaze.

Miss Shimmen said: “It was apparent once the flames had been extinguished that the fire had been started deliberately using petrol.”

Richardson was arrested later that night at his home address in Flaxfield Road, Beaminster, after he had been seen on CCTV at a local petrol station with a canister of petrol.

The defendant later admitted in interview that he had been in a dispute with the woman and her partner over some furniture they had collected from him earlier that day.

He said he had been drinking and taking prescription drugs and was not thinking straight.

In mitigation, David Lyons said that thankfully the damage caused to the property was minimal.

He added: “Clearly it’s not a good idea to mix a series of powerful pain killers with alcohol and clearly he had made a serious error of judgement.”

Mr Lyons said that his client had already spent around four months in custody on remand in relation to the incident.

Judge Roger Jarvis sentenced Richardson to six months in prison, meaning he will be eligible for parole immediately when time served on remand is taken into account.

He warned the defendant that the incident could have been far more serious than it turned out to be.

The judge said: “Anybody who commits the crime of arson must realise that when you use petrol nobody knows what is going to happen.”