FIREMEN had to break in when flames were spotted in the window on the top floor of a Redditch block of flats, Worcester Crown Court was told.

They found the occupant, 57-year-old Peter Richardson, sitting on his lounge floor surrounded by wet towels and sheets.

He told them he was too lazy to take his rubbish outside and decided to burn it in the flat, said prosecutor Paul Whitfield. When taken to hospital, he said he was sick of life and was going to burn himself.

On another occasion, Richardson had gone into a public toilet and set fire to a spare pair of trousers, said Mr Whitfield. He had also started a fire on the doorstep of a man he had falled out with.

Richardson, of Auxerre Avenue, who pleaded guilty to arson reckless whether lives would be endangered, claimed later that his remarks were only “banter”.

Jodie Smith, defending, said Richardson had been in poor mental health and was very vulnerable at the time. He had been drinking and had several times been the victim of crime. The fire had quickly been put out and there was water available.

But Judge Toby Hooper QC said he was concerned by Richardson's behaviour and there was a risk to the public by his offending. He had been drinking and showed callous disregard for other people.

He imposed a five-year jail sentence, saying that three-and-a-half years should be spent in custody. On release, the supervision licence period would be for 18 months.