Prisoner set fire to cell then bragged 'I'll pull the mental health card'

Jamie Crawford
-Credit: (Image: Cheshire police)


A shoplifter who started a fire in his prison cell bragged "I'll pull the mental health card so that will get me out of it."

Jamie Crawford, a serving prisoner at HMP Risley in Warrington, had been moved to a new wing within the prison due to drug use. A few days after the move on March 21 this year, a review was held about whether the 30 year old would be allowed to return to his old wing - but this was refused, and he was told the matter would be reviewed again on March 25.

Crawford was unhappy with the decision and became verbally abusive towards staff. At around 3.30pm that day, the prison fire alarm sounded, indicating there was a fire in his cell.

Guards rushed to the scene to find Crawford inside his cell, rubbing liquid (believed to be shower gel) all over his body as he claimed he was "greasing up". It took officers approximately 25 minutes to get into the barricaded cell, during which time Crawford was "abusive, non-compliant and obstructive".

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When he was finally taken from his cell, he said: "This is the fourth time I have done it. I know what I'm doing. I'll do what I did with the others and I'll pull the mental health card so that will get me out of it.’"

Crawford, who has 45 past convictions for 89 offences, pleaded guilty to arson. He appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today, June 5, for sentence.

Prosecutor Nardeen Nemat said: "On March 22 2024, in adjudication the defendant told prison officers he would set another fire if he was to be returned to the CSU wing. On March 23, he told prison officers that the intention of the fire was to kill himself and harm the governor.

"Jennifer Gordon, HMP Risley’s senior health, safety and fire advisor, indicates that serious damage was caused to the bed area. She found paper with multiple attempts to ignite it within the defendant’s cell.

The paper was located at the headboard end of the bed away from the seat of the fire, with multiple areas of separate scorch and burn marks indicative that it had been attempted deliberately several times. The cost for repair, cleaning, and refurbishment to the cell was £4,003.02.

"The cause of the fire was the deliberate ignition of the mattress and bedding using a heat source, most likely a vape pen. The biggest risk was to the defendant’s life."

The court heard that there was a "very low risk to others in the prison" as the blaze was unlikely to have spread from Crawford's concrete cell. However a prison spokesman said fires in prisons posed "exceptional risk because of the density of population and design of accommodation, and because the prisoners are locked within the building with no way of evacuating themselves."

She said: "The consequence of a large scale fire in a prison setting is beyond imagination."

Mark Le Brocq, defending, said there were "certain mental health issues in this case", and urged Judge Michelle Brown to take into account Crawford's guilty plea.

Sentencing Crawford to two years and seven months in prison, the judge said: "This is a serious offence and the custody threshold is more than crossed. Were it not for your personal circumstances and the limited risk of the fire spreading, your sentence would have been considerably higher.

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