Lesmahagow fireraising could have had tragic outcome

A man who carried out an arson attack on the home of his ex-partner put her neighbours, including a young family and an elderly woman, in danger of losing their lives.

Lanark Sheriff Court
Lanark Sheriff Court

That was the stark message delivered to Steven Watt, 33, as he stood in the dock of Lanark Sheriff Court last Thursday.

He was appearing on indictment for sentence, having, at an earlier hearing, pleaded guilty to the charge that, on November 27, 2015 at an address in Differick Drive, Lesmahagow, he wilfully set fire to the front door of the property, with the blaze taking hold and spreading to the hallway of the house.

Watt, now care of Bailliemore Farm, Strachur, Argyll, had initially denied that charge and had been due to stand trial at Lanark Sheriff Court on March 20 but changed his plea to one of guilty.

Sentence was deferred until last Thursday for the preparation of background reports.

However, sheriff Nikola Stewart said that, given the potential tragic outcome of Watt’s actions, she wanted to learn more about his state of mind and potential for re-offending before passing sentence.

The court was told that Watt had had a long-term relationship with the woman whose home he attacked but they had broken up.

On the date of the offence, he had waited until she had left the house to set fire to her front door, and the flames were extinguished before they could spread.

Sheriff Stewart remarked that the targeted home had a family with young children living next door to one side of the it and an elderly, vulnerable woman on the other side.

She also noted from a victim impact statement that the woman whose home had been targeted was still suffering anxiety 18 months after the offence.

“She still lives in fear of it happening again,” the sheriff commented.

She said that Watt’s actions “are redolent of deep-seated issues”, adding: “I am deeply concerned that this is a particularly dangerous man who has committed a dangerous act.

“He set fire to a house with an old person living next door on one side and young children living on the other side, and he set this fire just because he was not happy. I will need a psychiatric report.”

She ordered that such areport and a risk assessment be prepared and deferred sentence further to Thursday, June 22.