Three men jailed for 20 years after arson attack on Plymouth family's home
THREE men who torched a home while a mother and her son slept inside have been jailed for a total of 20 years.
Ross Luscombe, aged 22, Daniel Herrity, 21, and 25-year-old Liam Macdonald set fire to the front door after a late-night clash with another son in Union Street last August, Plymouth Crown Court heard.
They even stopped their taxi so they could buy matches and petrol on their way to the semi in Beacon Park Road at about 7.30am.
Fuel was poured over the door before it was set on fire.
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But the court heard that, luckily, builder Graham Phillips was awake and could alert sleeping wife Lesley and 21-year-old son Jay before he fought the flames.
Judge Graham Cottle jailed Luscombe and Herrity for six years and Macdonald for five.
"If Mr Phillips had also been asleep or had already left for work, the consequences could have been appalling," he said.
"You could have been standing in that dock convicted of something even more serious."
Macdonald was jailed for a further two and a half years for blatantly dealing crack cocaine on a city street only a day after the fire. His arson sentence was reduced by a year to reflect the overall term.
Luscombe was jailed for another six months for breaching a suspended prison sentence imposed for sexual activity with a girl aged under 16.
The trio admitted arson reckless as to whether life was endangered on August 27.
Luscombe, of Lancaster Gardens in Whitleigh, Herrity, of Beryl Walk, and Macdonald, of Eagledene – both in Liverpool – had earlier denied an alternative offence of arson with intent to endanger life.
Macdonald had earlier admitted possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.
Sarah Vince, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said the three men had been in Union Street at about 6.45am on the August Bank Holiday last year.
She said: "One of them was involved in an altercation with a man called Jamie Phillips.
"Daniel Herrity said he was set upon by a group of men."
Miss Vince added the trio took a taxi and stopped at the service station in Outland Road, where Luscombe bought a lighter.
The court heard that Macdonald bought a five-litre petrol can and filled it with fuel.
Miss Vince said the taxi driver dropped the three men close to Beacon Park Road.
She added Mr Phillips was at home at about 7.30am when he heard a bang at the door, but assumed it was other son Jamie returning home drunk.
Miss Vince said: "He heard a whoosh and realised the porch was full of smoke. He realised there were flames as well and used the small towel he was carrying to try and put them out."
She added he yelled to his wife and son to get out of the house while he filled buckets of water to fight the fire.
Miss Vince said fire crews arrived and the blaze was put out, causing damage of just over £1,000 to the front of the house.
The court heard experts found petrol had been poured over the door and possibly through the letterbox.
Miss Vince said police arrested the three men over the next few days. She added Macdonald was found dealing crack cocaine in Grenville Road, St Judes, the day after the arson. He had 23 grams of the drug, worth £2,372, divided into deals.
Malcolm Clark, for Luscombe, said he left the other two as soon as they got out of the taxi – but accepted he was "equally to blame".
He added that Luscombe had mental health problems and supported a partner who had a child.
Robert Linford, for Herrity, said he had a couple of children by his long-term partner and was relatively lightly convicted.
Jason Beal, for Macdonald, said he had worked in the past but had been made redundant. He added he had been pressured into dealing drugs after falling into debt.