Man who set fire to Lincoln YMCA bed detained in mental health unit

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A man who set fire to his accommodation just 24 hours before he was due to be evicted has been ordered to be detained in a secure mental health unit.

Christopher Duff, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, used a lighter to set light to bedding in his room at an annexe of the YMCA in St Rumbold Street, Lincoln.

Judge Simon Hirst ordered that she should be detained at the Francis Willis Unit under section 37 of the Mental Health Act.

Passing sentence, the judge said two psychiatrists had diagnosed Duff as suffering from the illness.

Judge Hirst told Duff: “I am satisfied that you are suffering from a mental disorder which is paranoid schizophrenia. It is clear that this is of a nature that means you should be treated in hospital.”

Jonathan Dunne, prosecuting, told an earlier hearing that Duff started the fire before he left his room.

Staff were alerted when the blaze activated fire alarms and discovered three feet high flames and thick smoke when they entered Duff’s room.

Firefighters arrived within minutes and the blaze was put out. No-one was injured in the incident.

Mr Dunne said that Duff moved into his room at the YMCA just weeks earlier from a night shelter.

“He was a vulnerable individual and they were prepared to give him accommodation. He had a room in a small unit of four bedrooms known as River View where they house those residents who are more vulnerable than others.

“He became a resident in the first week or so of June 2017 but his behaviour was erratic and difficult. The YMCA determined they were going to evict Mr Duff on July 5.”

Mr Dunne said that a member of staff went to Duff’s room on July 4 and told him the housing manager wanted to speak to him. Duff said he would take a shower first and the member of staff left. Soon afterwards the fire alarms went off and staff went to investigate.

The blaze was discovered and fire fighters arrived within 10 minutes and put it out.

Mr Dunne said: “Duff was seen outside the building with soot on his face and a cigarette lighter in his pocket. There was only one suspect for this fire setting and that is Mr Duff.”

Duff, 26, formerly of St Rumbold Street, Lincoln, faced a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered as a result of the incident on the afternoon of July 4, 2017.

A jury found that he committed the act. Judge Hirst earlier ruled that Duff was unfit to enter a plea to the charge because of his mental health problems.

David Eager, for Duff, said he wanted to get treatment as soon as possible.