Arson a case of ‘when in stupid-ville’

A former student who set fire to rubbish bins and furniture summarised his actions concisely: ‘‘when in stupid-ville.’’

Timothy James Percy (23) had dropped out of tertiary study to care for his ailing mother a month before his July 8 drinking binge, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.

The decision to leave the polytechnic, Judge Michael Crosbie said, showed the defendant was capable of making ‘‘sensible, rational, caring decisions’’, but the events that resulted in him pleading guilty to arson showed a less responsible side to his character.

During Re-O Week, when students return from mid-semester break, Percy was on Castle St, where he set fire to the contents of a wheelie bin outside a flat.

Campus Watch staff extinguished the small blaze but within a couple of hours, the defendant was at it again.

Percy pulled a piece of furniture beside a property on Hyde St into the road and set it alight.

Walking north up the road, he did the same to another bin.

This time, the fire service was called to deal with the twin arsons.

Both wheelie bins were damaged beyond repair, the court heard.

When interviewed by Probation, Percy said he had been drinking beer on the night in question and had moved on to spirits at a ‘‘random house party’’.

The explanation of his acts was succinct.

‘‘When in stupid-ville,’’ Percy said.

Judge Crosbie said the ‘‘idiotic antics’’ were captured on CCTV, as was often the case when crimes were committed in the student sector.

‘‘You and those who occupy studentville should get it out of your heads this is anything other than a criminal offence,’’ he said.

‘‘You may think that burning a couch . . . doesn’t place anyone at risk but you would be wrong, because around those places, which are reasonably high in density and there are lots of other people around, accidents can happen, and have. Fires can get out of control.’’

Percy was sentenced to four months’ community detention, 200 hours’ community work and six months’ supervision.

He was ordered to pay $1347 for the damage caused.