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William Smith Snr's sentence adjourned after attack at Five Kilns site in Stockbury Valley

A father who set fire to a caravan while a pregnant woman and others were inside during a family feud has had his sentence adjourned for the second time.

William Smith was on Monday facing a lengthy spell behind bars after admitting the complex charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and violent disorder.

But because the 53-year-old traveller lodged a late basis of plea which differed from the way the case was presented by the prosecution, sentencing did not go ahead.

Smoke rising from the A249 fire. Picture Tori Russon (1833214)
Smoke rising from the A249 fire. Picture Tori Russon (1833214)

Two others, William Smith Jnr and Eli Smith, were sentenced in December on the basis that their involvement in violence at the Five Kilns site in Stockbury Valley, Stockbury, just off the A249, was before there was an alleged revenge attack carried out by Brian Smith and Wester Smith.

But Williams Smith Snr now claims he poured the petrol into the caravan after he and his son were attacked.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC then decided that sentence should be adjourned until after the trial of Brian Smith, 23, and Wester Smith, who are accused of wounding William Smith Jnr with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Sentencing Eli Smith, 23, to two years and nine months for violent disorder and William Smith Jnr, 29, also known as Billy Boy, to 19 months for affray, the judge spoke of the “mayhem” that erupted during the feud.

Prosecutor Oliver Dunkin said there was bad blood over a piece of land between William Smith Snr and his brother Brian Smith Snr.

“That has been passed down to their sons,” he said. “Whatever the rights and wrongs, the spark was a fly-tipping incident. There was going to be a straightener (fight) between the two sons.”

“You know a sentence of imprisonment is inevitable..." Judge Griffith-Jones

But on the morning of May 5 last year William Smith Snr, William Smith Jnr and Eli Smith went to the site.

William Smith Jnr drove a car at vehicles there, damaging them. There was then a revenge attack on him, leaving him with a shoulder injury and a “grotesque” break to his leg, said Mr Dunkin.

Among those in the static caravan were Brian Smith Snr, Mary Matthews, Wester Smith and pregnant Paige Taylor.

Miss Taylor had been in bed in a spare room. Brian Smith Snr told “Wes” to get up as there were others on the site with weapons. Miss Taylor went to the kitchen to hide.

She heard the French doors being smashed and then saw Bill Smith Snr leaning through, pouring in petrol and making the threat to burn them out.

“She said she thought she was going to die,” said Mr Dunkin.

Eli Smith was sentenced in December
Eli Smith was sentenced in December

She managed to escape before the blaze started. Others in the caravan also fled, with Brian Smith jumping through a window.

Badly injured Bill Smith was taken to hospital in Maidstone by his girlfriend Toni Jo Coomber.

Judge Griffith-Jones QC said the prosecution case and Smith’s basis of plea were “poles apart”.

Smith, he said, claimed the incident started with him and his son being attacked. It was only after that, he asserted, that the fire was started.

Smith also claimed he did not know there was anybody in the caravan when he torched it.

“It is quite intolerable that this should only have been made clear in the basis of plea now,” said the judge.

Maidstone Crown Court (6787087)
Maidstone Crown Court (6787087)

“It flies in the face of the way the case has been presented and dealt with until now, including the sentencing of two other defendants, who were sentenced without demur on the basis of the case as advanced by the Crown.”

Judge Griffith-Jones said in adjourning sentence he was “not assuming for a moment” that the picture would necessarily be clearer after the trial.

He told Smith: “You know a sentence of imprisonment is inevitable, so this delay is not likely in any significant way to prejudice you.”

Brian Smith, 23, and Wester Smith, who were both living at the site, are due to stand trial this week.

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