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A man with “issues” with God and religion who started fires at two places of worship in Edinburgh within minutes of each other has been jailed for four years.

Paul Johnson, 49, told police after he was arrested for the fires at a Methodist church and a Sikh temple that he had wanted to watch them burn down.

Johnson claimed that he was wanting to make “a political statement” but would not elaborate on the details.

Advocate depute Alan Cameron said: “When asked whether this was religiously motivated he stated that he has no issue with any particular religion but his issues are with religion and God in general.”

On Thursday, Johnson – who pleaded guilty to two charges last month, was sent to prison.

Passing sentence, Lord Boyd told Johnson that he had no other option but to impose a custodial term on him..

He added: “Your actions put people at risk. They were reckless and wicked. I take into account that your actions were motivated by a grudge against religion and religious authority and not against one particular religion.

“Indeed, I take into account that you appeared not to know what denominations you targeted.”

Johnson admitted two charges of wilful fire raising aggravated by religious prejudice when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh last month.

He pled guilty to setting fire to the doors of the Leith Methodist Church at Junction Place on August 28 this year by pouring petrol over them and applying a naked flame resulting in charring and burn marks.

He also admitted on the same day setting for to the doors of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple at Sheriff Brae, in Leith, by gathering combustible material, placing it against the doors, pouring petrol on it and applying a flame with the result that the doors caught fire and smoke penetrated the building endangering the life of inhabitants.

The court heard that the temple priest Harbhajan Singh earlier secured the doors of the premises and went to family quarters at the rear of the building where he stayed with his wife and child.

Before 5 am Michal Kazimierczak walked to the temple with the intention of praying at the entrance prior to going to work and tried to clear what appeared to be litter from the a gap at the bottom of the doors only to discover it was alight and had taken hold.

He ran to the side of the building and alerted the sleeping priest and both men then tried to put out the fire using a bucket of water.

The fire brigade was alerted and 11 firefighters were deployed to bring the blaze under control. Significant burning and charring was seen on the doors and smoke had engulfed the building.

A caretaker at the Methodist church arrived at his work and smelled petrol and burning and saw scorch marks at the gate and steps at the front door. After media reports of the fire at the Sikh temple he contacted police.

Unemployed Johnson was caught on security cameras buying a jerry can and petrol at a BP service station in Ferry Road before midnight on August 27.

He was also seen on footage approaching the front door of the church shortly after midnight and a flash of light was captured.

Johnson was also seen on CCTV approaching the temple with the jerry can and lighting paper and throwing it towards the door. He repeatedly returned to light more paper and a burst of flame was later seen before he fled.

Johnson, who was evicted from his accommodation in the city’s Duddingston Crescent the day before the fire attacks, was found with three cigarette lighters when he was arrested on August 30.

He admitted starting the fires to police. Mr Cameron said: “He further stated that around midnight he walked to the Methodist church in Leith and poured fuel on the doors before using a lighter to set fire to pieces of paper which he threw on the fuel.”

“He stated that a small fire started but quickly went out. He stayed in the immediate area for some time but no emergency services attended,” said the prosecutor.

“He further stated that he then walked around Leith for around 40 minutes and on seeing the Sikh temple set fire to the doors using the same method as before,” he told the court.

Mr Cameron said “The accused stated that his intention in buying the petrol was to start the fire at the Methodist church and that the fire-raising at the Sikh temple was not planned and was only carried out when he came across the building.”

The prosecutor said Johnson was asked what his intention was in starting the fires and said “he wanted to watch them burn down”.

Defence counsel David Nicolson said Johnson was seen by a psychiatrist who confirmed that he was fit to plead.

On Thursday, Mr Nicolson told Lord Boyd that his client hadn’t co-operated with a specialist social worker who had been appointed to write a report into his background.

He added: “I am limited by what I can say. It is very limited. The primary form of mitigation which I can advance is that he tendered a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity. I would ask you to take that into account.”

Speaking following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Grant Johnston from Gayfield CID said: “Paul Johnson showed absolutely no concern for the safety or wellbeing of those in or around either place of worship when he started these fires.

“As a result of a swift police investigation, Johnson was quickly traced and arrested in connection with the fire and has now been given a custodial sentence.

“We treat all hate crime incidents with the utmost seriousness and whenever such offences occur, we will conduct a thorough inquiry to bring those responsible to justice.”

Lord Boyd said that if Johnson hadn’t pleaded guilty, he would have received a six year sentence.

The Scotsman

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Guru Nanak Sikh Templein Edinburgh (Image: Daily Record)

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Guru Nanak Sikh Templein Edinburgh (Image: Daily Record)

A man who has “issues” with religion has admitted setting fire to the doors of a Sikh temple and a church.

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Edinburgh’s Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and Leith Methodist Church this summer because he wanted to make a “political statement”.

He told police he wanted to watch the premises burn down and hoped to be arrested.

Johnson, 49, admitted two charges of willful fireraising, aggravated by religious prejudice, on August 28 when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday. He will be sentenced next month.

The court heard the attack on the Sikh temple , to the danger of life of a family inside, was unplanned and was only carried out when unemployed Johnson came across the building.

It also heard how, on the evening of August 27, Johnson bought a container and, later, fuel worth £3.51 from a local petrol station.

Shortly before 5am on August 28, a man heading to the temple to pray spotted that fire had taken hold on one side of one of the doors and immediately raised the alarm with a man sleeping inside in the family quarters.

The fire service was then alerted and used two engines, two high reach vehicles and 11 firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

Around a couple of hours later, the caretaker at Leith Methodist Church noticed a smell of petrol and burning and cleaned up the area around the front door after realising there was no fire damage of note.

The door of the Sikh temple in Edinburgh was set alight

The door of the Sikh temple in Edinburgh was set alight

He later contact police after hearing about the incident at the temple.

CCTV footage from the area around the church between 12.03am and 12.13am showed Johnson approaching the church door, with a flash of light then visible.

Footage from the temple from 12.38am to 1.07am revealed him then approaching the door with a jerry can and lighting a piece of paper.

He returned on two further occasions during that time to light more paper and throw it towards the door before running away.

Police arrested Johnson after spotting him in Leith in the early hours of August 30.

Asked about his involvement in the two fires, he immediately told officers: “I did it.”

Advocate depute Alan Cameron told the court: “He stated that around midnight he walked to the Methodist Church in Leith and poured fuel on the doors before using a lighter to set fire to pieces of paper which he threw on the fuel.

“He stated that a small fire started but quickly went out. He stayed in the immediate area for some time but no emergency services attended.”

Johnson then walked around Leith and, on seeing the Sikh temple, set fire to its front doors using the same method.

Mr Cameron continued: “He stated that a small fire caught and he stayed in the locus as he wanted to be arrested by the police, however no emergency services attended.

“The accused stated that his intention in buying the petrol was to start the fire at the Methodist church and that the fire-raising at the Sikh temple was not planned and was only carried out when he came across the building.

“The accused was asked as to his motivation for the fires and stated that he was looking to make a political statement, but would not provide further details.

“When asked whether this was religiously motivated he stated that he has no issue with any particular religion but his issues are with religion and God in general.

“The accused was asked what his intention was by setting fire to the building and he stated that he wanted to watch them burn down.”

Johnson, listed as a prisoner in Edinburgh, has a previous conviction for culpable and reckless conduct, which earned him a four-month jail sentence in 2017.

Judge Lord Boyd deferred sentencing in the case until November 15.

Daily Record

Michael Burns is one of two men had a three-year football ban. Credit: PA

Michael Burns is one of two men had a three-year football ban. Credit: PA

Two men have been handed three-year football banning orders after a video appeared to show England fans singing an anti-Semitic song at the World Cup.

The behaviour of David Batty and Michael Burns in a bar in the Russian city of Volgograd was described as “disgraceful” by a district judge.

The city of Volgograd, which was the venue for England’s 2-1 win over Tunisia, was formerly known as Stalingrad – the site of one of the bloodiest battles in history when Soviet soldiers repelled Hitler’s army during the Second World War.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard how the pair both had tickets for upcoming matches at the 2018 World Cup, but were ordered to return home.

The pair both accepted the banning notice, which was served under the 1989 Football Spectators Act, when they appeared in court on Tuesday.

David Batty will not be allowed to attend England football matches for three years. Credit: PA

David Batty will not be allowed to attend England football matches for three years. Credit: PA

Batty, 58, of Doncaster, and 52-year-old Burns, from Billingham in Cleveland, both looked emotionless as they were told that they would not be able to be within a two-mile radius of any England football matches until 2021.

She added: “I have seen the activity that you were involved in and seen the still images from what you did.

“You know that at this time people are getting behind the national team, including children, and your actions are ruining that.”

Malcolm Christy, prosecuting, told the court how the pair had been involved in “inappropriate singing” and that a three-year ban would be the most suitable punishment.

A third man, 57-year-old Michael Herbert, was handed a five-year banning order at Leicester Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, the NPCC said.

Last Wednesday, a spokesman for the FA said of the footage: “We strongly condemn the actions of the people in this video.

“The disgraceful conduct of the individuals in this video does not represent the values of the majority of English football fans supporting the team in Russia.”

Another man, Paul Johnson, 25, of Banbury, Oxfordshire, was given a three-year football banning order at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Saturday following a separate incident on a train near Moscow on June 16, the NPCC said.

ITV News

Michael Herbert was banned for five years after an investigation into an anti-Semitic video, filmed in Russia.

Police have been investigating an anti-Semitic video which circulated online

Police have been investigating an anti-Semitic video which circulated online

Two men have been banned from attending football matches following offences at the Russia World Cup.

Michael Herbert, 57, from Derby, was given a five-year football banning order when he appeared at Leicester Magistrates Court.

It follows an investigation by police into an anti-Semitic video which circulated online.

Another two men, aged 52 and 58, were served with notices under the Football Spectators Act.

Although they appeared in Leicester Magistrates Court, their case was adjourned until 26 June.

Following a separate incident on a train near Moscow on 17 June, Paul Johnson, 25, was given a three-year football banning order.

Police were hunting those who appeared in a video performing a Nazi salute.

The FA condemned the behaviour, adding: “We are working with the relevant authorities, including the UK police investigations team, who are making inquiries to identify the individuals involved and take appropriate action.

“The disgraceful conduct of the individuals in this video does not represent the values of the majority of English football fans supporting the team in Russia.”
Sky News