A conspiracy theorist who set fire to a 5G mast causing damage worth more than £100,000 will not go to prison.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that David Patterson, who has schizophrenia, was experiencing a low point in his mental health when he torched 5G stand, the Chronicle Live reports.
He had become influenced after reading “delusional” online theories that led him to believe that the towers were dangerous and he needed to protect himself and others.
The court heard that he was “experiencing a psychotic episode” when he committed the arson.
Patterson had previously covered himself in tin foil to protect himself from waves from the masts, and he felt the need to take matters into his own hands by setting fire to the mast.
The 5G stand sat above a garage, and by setting it alight Patterson caused between £100,000 and £150,000 damage to the mast and around £15,000 damage to the business.
The court heard that Patterson had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication and wanted to kill himself, but he was persuaded otherwise by a police officer.
Tony Davis, the defending lawyer, said that reports showed Patterson was suffering from a “psychotic episode” when he committed the crime.
He said: “He said it was a spontaneous thing for him to go and do what he did.
“He (previously) covered himself in tin foil surrounded by food in order to wait out in some sort of self-made bunker in his kitchen.”
Judge Sarah Mallett sentenced Patterson to a 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and he is instructed to complete 200 hours unpaid work and rehabilitation after reading details on his mental health illness.
It was reported that Patterson is at low risk of re-offending and medium risk of harm to members of the public.
The said to Patterson: “You thought it was necessary to destroy it to protect others.
“Obviously that was a product of your mental ill-health at the time. You were experiencing a psychotic episode at the time.”
Judge Mallett had said at a previous hearing: “He believed he was protecting his family and others, in reality, from the harm he thinks, in his delusional beliefs, was coming from the aerial.”
She added: “He believed tins and tin foil act as a barrier from the waves he believed he was experiencing from the 5G masts, furthered as it was, that belief, by material that is accessible on the internet that, frankly, feeds beliefs that are widely considered and accepted to be completely delusional.”
Patterson, 41, went to Wardley Garage, on Sunderland Road, Gateshead, which had a 5G mast attached to the roof, in the early hours of June 22 last year.
The owner of the garage got a call around 4.30am saying the building was on fire but in fact it was the BT-owned mast which had been torched.
Alec Burns, prosecuting, said a witness who lives nearby was woken around 4am and saw Patterson get out of his car and noted his car registration.
Patterson, who said he called the fire service afterwards, was seen on CCTV climbing over a fence after forcing a padlock.
Mr Burns said it had been difficult to repair the mast and it will have to be replaced, which will cost between £100,000 and £150,000.
Repairs to the roof of the garage cost almost £3,000 and will probably cost another £5,000 to fix properly, the court heard.
There was also almost £8,000 of damage to the electrics, more than £1,000 of damage to the alarm and further damage to the plumbing.
The court heard Patterson was admitted to a psychiatric hospital the day after the offence and has started taking his medication again and is making good progress.
He told the court: “I know what I did was totally wrong.”
He added that he is aware conspiracy theories are not good for his mind and said: “I just want to spend lovely time with my lovely friends and family.”