Burning pants prank costs Kendal man £10,000

Paul Hodgson

Paul Hodgson

First published in News
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A DRUNKEN prankster who thought it would be a laugh to set fire to his sleeping friend’s boxer shorts has been hit hard in the pocket.

Paul Hodgson threw after-shave lotion onto Stefan Grat-tan and then set fire to his underpants, Preston Crown Court was told.

Mr Grattan woke up in excruciating pain at an hotel on Central Drive in Blackpool, and it was later found that he had serious second and third degree burns on his thighs.

He was unable to work for four months, the court heard.

Hodgson, 23, of Burneside Road, Kendal, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm. He was given a suspended 16-month prison sentence and ordered to pay Mr Grattan £4,000 in compensation.

Defending barrister Joe Hart said that Hodgson had also spent £6,000 on his legal representation.

“I suggest this is the most expensive night out in Blackpool he has ever had," said Mr Hart.

The court was told that the pair had gone for a short stay at the resort for Mr Grattan’s birthday.

Joe Allman, prosecuting, said they booked into the hotel and went on to get very drunk. Mr Grattan was later sharing a room with some of the others and asleep in his boxer shorts when Hodgson went into the room, poured aftershave onto his shorts and set them on fire.

"Plainly, this was intended to be a joke, but Stefan Grattan woke up in excru-ciating pain, with his boxer shorts on fire", said Mr Allman.

"He was too drunk to appreciate who had done that to him, or quite how bad his injuries were – he simply patted down the flames and went back to sleep."

Both the defendant and another man in the room were laughing at the time.

The following morning Mr Grattan poured cold water on his injuries and tried to treat them with cream. Hodgson apologised for what had happened, but he did not accept it.

Mr Grattan admitted himself to hospital, where his wounds were cleaned and bandaged, and he was referred to a trauma clinic.

He suffered three large burns to his thighs – a mixture of second and third degree injuries which had gone on to heal completely.

But in a victim personal statement, he spoke of losing about £4,000 due to being unable to work for four months. He also had trouble sleeping and could not play football.

The court was told that at an earlier hearing, he had indicated he did not want the defendant to go to prison.

Judge Pamela Badley heard that Hodgson had a previous conviction, from October 2010, where he got 84 days prison following a bomb hoax. That earlier offence had also arisen at a time when he was drunk and with friends.

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Joe Hart, in mitigation, said Mr Grattan had not known who was responsible for what happened to him until the defendant apologised the day after.

"There has been no change in his remorse from the moment he admitted it to his former friend.

"I submit this was a prank gone horribly wrong. He has seen alcohol thrown on surfaces and burned off, causing no damage, like a Christmas pudding.

"Had he not been drunk, or had any modicum of common sense, he would not have set fire to his friend's boxer shorts. As soon as things went awry, he tried to pull the victim's shorts off, because he realised they were still on."

And he added: "This incident has served as something of a wake up call for the defendant. He has now settled down and says he doesn't have the same problem with binge drinking.

"This was stupidity in the extreme from a young man who really didn't think it through.”

The judge told him: "The offence has caused a huge amount of pain and disruption. If you ever think something will be amusing, you should reflect that your sense of humour has not gone down well with others in society".

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