A MAN who started a blaze at a block of flats in the middle of the night, causing £26,000 worth of damage, has been spared an immediate jail term.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that Adam Wakeling, 28, of Moor Street, Chepstow, lit cardboard in a bin storage area beside a housing association complex around midnight after rowing with his girlfriend who lived there.

Nigel Fryer, prosecuting, said the blaze spread through the rubbish at the Melin Homes Garden City block of flats and was soon “out of control”.

Residents rushed from the building and firefighters were called to put the blaze out.

“People had to be evacuated, but mercifully there was no injury, just the damage that was caused,” said Mr Fryer.

“He said he’d been in the bin store area and a lighter had fallen out of his pocket and it must have caused a spark that inadvertently started the fire.”

But he was rumbled when he was overheard by a neighbour telling his partner: “I done it.”

Wakeling, who the court was told has learning difficulties and suffers muscular dystrophy, admitted causing criminal damage by fire on July 30, 2021.

Thomas Stanway, for Wakeling, said: “The matter arose after an argument with his former partner. He was unable to appropriately manage his emotions.

“The defendant took the misguided or particularly foolish decision to set a piece of cardboard alight at that stage not fully, plainly, appreciating the amount of combustible material within the bin store.”

Jailing Wakeling for 12 months suspended for 18 months, Judge Hywel James said there was a prospect of rehabilitation. He was also ordered to undertake a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

The judge told him: “A communal bin storage area was entirely destroyed as a result of the fire and the estimated cost to repair that was some £26,600.

“The offence arose because of a disagreement you’d had with your then girlfriend.

“In your words you’d lost it and the fire was caused by you igniting cardboard which then caused the bin area to catch fire.

“That would have been frightening for those who lived nearby.

“It also put fire officers at risk in having to deal with that fire.

“But there’s no evidence that an accelerant or inflammable liquid was used.”