Abertillery man faces six years jail for Crumlin crisp factory arson

4:37pm Wednesday 8th January 2014

THE man who admitted burning down a Crumlin crisp factory was jailed for six years and three months today.

Colin Goulding, 31, of Bridge Street, Abertillery, had admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

On September 20, 2012, Goulding started a fire after he dropped a cigarette at the Real Crisps factory where he worked with his parents in Croespenmaen near Crumlin.

Judge Phillip Richards said it was: "A reckless act but I accept you didn't intend to cause the fire that had such devastating consequences, not least for your own family."

He added: "I have to have some regard to the extent of the damage that you have caused. This is far and away the most serious arson I have attended to as a judge in these courts."

It is estimated the fire on Sirhowy Valley Foods Estate caused over £6 million of damage and a financial loss of £25 million. Seventy-seven people lost their jobs, as factory owners Tayto Group Ltd did not to re-open.

Goulding pleaded guilty to the lesser of two counts he faced, the more serious being arson with intent to endanger life.

During a night shift on September 20, 2012, Goulding, against company rules, took a short-cut through the goods warehouse where he lit a cigarette.

CCTV footage shows him walking out of the warehouse area and throwing his cigarette on the ground at 3.10am when he thought he heard another staff member coming. The father-of-one had previously been caught taking the short-cut through the warehouse.

Flames spread quickly due to flammable materials on site, including cardboard palettes and tens of thousands of litres of cooking oil.

Defending Goulding, Huw Evans said he didn’t intend to start the fire and neither did he intend to endanger life. He said Goulding was unaware he had started a fire and called 999 himself when alarms went off.

Mr Evans said: “The irony is the defendant lost more than anyone. He, his mother and father, all lost their employment.”

The defence argued some culpability should be placed on the factory owners, who knew workers would have a “sly cigarette” in the warehouse where there was no CCTV, to avoid wasting time removing overalls and going outside.

Det Sgt Ian Bartholomew said: “We’re satisfied with the sentencing today.” I hope it brings a level of closure to the families that have been affected.”

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