Fury as arsonists’ sentence is slashed

Owner Mandy Leigh after the fire at the Easterleigh Animal Sanctuary and (below) Jordan Morgan and (bottom) Karl Heaton.
Owner Mandy Leigh after the fire at the Easterleigh Animal Sanctuary and (below) Jordan Morgan and (bottom) Karl Heaton.
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TWO arsonists who killed hens, cats and a rabbit, during a drunken attack on an animal sanctuary have had their sentences slashed by a judge.

And today the owner of the charity the pair targeted said she was “utterly disgusted” by the decision.

Jordan Morgan

Jordan Morgan

Karl Heaton, 23, and Jordan Morgan, 19, caused a blaze at the Easterleigh Animal Sanctuary in St Annes during a night of drunkenness in March last year.

They each admitted four counts of arson and one attempted arson and were sentenced to open-ended “public protection” sentences at Preston Crown Court in May.

Each was also ordered to serve a minimum of four years and four months behind bars before being allowed to even apply for release on licence.

This week Court of Appeal judges upheld the open-ended nature of their sentences, but said three years was long enough before applying for freedom.

Karl Heaton

Karl Heaton

And Mandy Leigh, who owns the sanctuary at Queens Park Farm, said: “I’m disgusted, totally and utterly disgusted.

“As far as I’m concerned we still class them as murderers. The judge should have come down and seen the dead bodies of the animals and the suffering they went through. They should have got life as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr Justice Sweeney told the court Heaton, of Smithy Lane, Ansdell, and Morgan, of no fixed address, were drunk when they embarked on their spree.

In the early hours of March 23 last year, they set fire to a garage, causing about £20,000 of damage when the flames spread to a next door garage.

Soon after they started a fire inside a van, causing about £500 of damage, and another at Fylde Scout HQ, causing about £40,000 of damage.

Police got hold of Heaton’s mobile phone number and called him.

He was arrested and shortly afterwards his friend Morgan was also apprehended.

Their fourth attack was found later in the morning when staff arrived at the animal sanctuary and found it on fire.

The pair had started a blaze in a hay stall, which spread through an outbuilding, killing 25 animals, including hens, cats and a rabbit.

They had also attempted to set fire to a barn near the sanctuary. When questioned, each blamed the other, but after a court hearing, a crown court judge said they were equally responsible.

In sentencing he said he considered them so dangerous only “public protection” tariffs, from which offenders can only be released when considered safe, were suitable.

At the appeal court the pair argued the open-ended, indeterminate sentences should not have been passed and that their minimum terms were also too long.

But Mr Justice Sweeney, sitting with Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, said there was evidence on which the crown court judge could say the pair were “dangerous”.

He added: “There was simply no basis upon which he could conclude that either appellant would become safe during any finite period that he could identify.

“All that said, it does seem to us that the notional determinate sentence in each case was too long.”

Each will now serve three years before they can apply for parole, but will only then be freed if the Parole Board considers they are safe.

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