Prisoner who set fire to cell at Risley Prison walks free


A prisoner who set fire to his jail cell and had to be dragged out by a guard at Risley Prison has walked free.

James Walker had started the blaze in the toilet area of his single cell using a vape and after the fire alarm was triggered guards, wearing smoke hoods, rushed to help.

A spray lance was pushed through an opening in the door of his cell in the care and separation unit to extinguish the fire.

“He refused to comply with instructions for about five minutes but eventually moved closer to the doors so an officer could open just wide enough for him to pull the defendant out,” said Louise Santamera, prosecuting.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that the incident, which left HMP Risley at Warrington, with a £3,500 bill for refurbishment, occurred on the afternoon of June 8 last year.

The 28-year-old was behind bars serving a 61-month sentence imposed in 2019 for assault with intent to rob. He had been released in October 2021 but was recalled to finish the sentence on December 2 of that year, said Miss Santamera.
She said that Walker refused to be interviewed but told a probation officer that he had set fire to the cell as he wanted to kill himself.
The court was also told that he said he had done it as photographs he had wanted had not been given to him. CCTV of the incident was played to the court.

Ken Heckle, defending, said that Walker, who has 34 previous convictions for 49 offences including robbery and criminal damage, had “been in a bad place” at the time.
There has been a delay in bringing the case to court and there has been a dramatic change in him since his release in April. ‘His partner seems to be sorting him out.”

Judge David Aubrey, KC, said that the defendant, who pleaded guilty to arson, had “put your own and the lives of others potentially at risk.”
Imposing a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months he said that he took into account that at the time he had been “emotional and vulnerable.
“You were described as being in a dark place. In the past you have taken steps to end your life. You now seem to be a much better place emotionally.
“It is to the credit of yourself and your partner that you, together, appear to be seeking to manage those emotional issues and your life seems to be more stable than it has been for a long long time.”
He also ordered Walker, of Raleigh Road, Ellesmere Port, to carry out 150 hours unpaid work and 40 days of rehabilitation activities. He additionally imposed a 12 month mental health treatment requirement.

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