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Home Thanet News Article
A man who set fire to his Ramsgate home with his three children inside has had his appeal against his "severe" sentence thrown out by senior judges.
Derek Gale, now 29, was told today by judges at the Criminal Court of Appeal in London that he could have no complaint about his seven-year prison sentence.
Gale had told girlfriend Donna Gray “you’re not going to get out of here alive” before putting a lighter to curtains at their Boundary Road home.
She had then managed to escape the terraced house with their two children, aged five and two.
Brave neighbour Nicola Harris had used a mobile phone torch to get through the smoke to rescue the remaining one-year-old baby from an upstairs bedroom.
Gale had been jailed for seven years by Judge Charles Macdonald QC at Maidstone Crown Court after he was found guilty of arson, being reckless as to whether life is endangered, in November 2013.
Top judges at the London court told Gale his son had only been saved by “good fortune” and a neighbour’s bravery and that his jail term was thoroughly deserved.
Mr Justice King said the “serious offence” had been committed in March 2013, as Gale’s eight-year relationship with his girlfriend “was disintegrating”. It followed a drink-fuelled row during which Ms Gray had asked Gale to leave.
He had refused and set alight the curtains. The terrified woman had fled with two of their children, aged five and two into the street as flames flickered through the frontroom window.
Ms Harris had realised the baby was upstairs and had rushed through dense, black smoke to save him.
Gale had dragged the flaming curtain rail into the street before fleeing to his parents’ house - “failing to assist his endangered family” - while neighbours put out the blaze using pots of water.
His only relevant previous conviction had been for criminal damage in 2005, the appeal judge said.
That Gale had been drinking and left the scene without helping to rescue the baby boy aggravated the offence, the sentencing judge found.
On appeal, Gale’s barrister, Lucy Luttman, argued that his jail term was excessive when compared to those imposed in similar arson cases and that it should therefore be cut.
However, Mr Justice King, said that, “notwithstanding Miss Luttman’s meticulous examination” of other cases, the argument “cannot be accepted”.
“There were in the present case features which entitled the sentencing judge to regard this as a serious example of its kind,” he explained.
“In particular, the recklessness was directed towards a baby, who was rescued more by good fortune than anything else.
“Moreover, the striking feature of the present case is the total failure of Gale to seek to assist his endangered family.”
The appeal judge, sitting with Lord Justice Treacy and Judge Stephen Kramer QC, rejected the appeal, concluding: “The sentence was no doubt severe, but we are not able to say that it was manifestly excessive”.
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