A petty criminal who caused £5.6 million worth of damage to a railway station by causing a fire in a toilet block has been jailed for just over two years.
Gemma Peat, a heroin and crack cocaine addict, who had been taking the drugs in the toilets at Nottingham station immediately before the fire on 12 January last year, started the blaze by discarding smouldering debris in a sanitary bin.
The 34-year-old, of Wilford Crescent, Nottingham, who had a previous record of 108 offences including shoplifting, possession of knives and assaulting emergency workers, had pleaded guilty to a single count of arson.
Nottingham crown court heard that more than 100 firefighters were brought in to tackle the fire, which spread to the station’s linking bridge because of construction defects.
The court was told builders had cut corners by packing the wall supporting the toilet block with a foot of highly flammable polystyrene after realising the ceiling was uneven.
The prosecution said Network Rail had ensured there were no such defects in the reconstruction project.
Sentencing Peat to 25 months in prison on Tuesday, the judge, Gregory Dickinson QC, said: “This offence is a consequence of drug addiction. Your reason for going into a toilet was to smoke heroin and crack cocaine.
“At some point you recklessly discarded smouldering debris in a sanitary bin in the cubicle. The bin must have been smouldering as you left. You should have realised but you may not have done in your drugged up state.
“ There was of course a risk to the safety of the public, the staff and the firefighters. It was a stupid and dangerous thing to do and it disregarded the safety of the public.
“However, it is important to establish that this fire was started recklessly, thoughtlessly but not deliberately.”
The blaze, which was started shortly before 6.30am, closed the station, several surrounding roads and a tram line while it was being tackled.
The judge also said closer consideration should have been given fire prevention at the station. “Toilets in public places like railway stations are sometimes used by people who smoke drugs. It is a sad fact but it is true,” he said.
“It seems to me that those who are responsible [for the toilets] should be aware of that. There should have been clearer rules about raising the alarm.”