Setting a fire in an inhabited building is a crime of violence.
At the Scottish Politician of the Year awards ceremony at the Prestonfield House Hotel in November 2004, Mike Watson got very drunk. He’d been drunk at the dinner, he got even more drunk at the VIP party after the dinner, and as the hotel staff were clearing up, he was “asking forcefully for more wine” and they gave him an open bottle, evidently hoping he’d go away.
On 8th August, Gordon Thompson was with a group of rioters who broke into Reeves Furniture Store, Croydon. While they were there, he stole a laptop. As they left, he was heard to say: “Let’s burn the place”, and asked, “Who’s got a lighter?” Someone handed him a lighter, he lit it, and set fire to a sofa in the window display.
Furniture is flammable. The whole building burned to the ground. Thompson was arrested when he was identified from a picture on the front page of the Croydon Advertiser. He claimed he was planning to turn himself in: he initially denied arson but in court he pleaded guilty to burglary and “arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered”.
That crime – burning a 19th-century business to the ground – was one of the most spectacular crimes of the London riots last August. Continue reading