Sunderland man set fire to van in grievance against boss

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A man with a money grievance against his employer is facing at least four years behind bars for setting a £20,300 van on fire.

Gavin Tiffin, 44, filmed himself using a petrol canister and a lighter to engulf the Enterprise Rent-A-Car motor in flames at the city’s Downhill sports complex.

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Tiffin, of Kingsland Square, Downhill, Sunderland, then sent the footage to his victim as his row over cash spiralled out of control, magistrates in South Tyneside were told.

He inflicted the damage when he sparked the costly blaze on Wednesday, September 20, prosecutor Emma O’Hegarty said.

Magistrates refused to sentence Tiffin, telling him his crime of arson was so serious it must be decided by a judge at the higher crown court.

Mrs O’Hegarty told the hearing: “The crown says this is not suitable to be sentenced in the magistrates’ court. It’s a starting point of four years’ custody.

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“The defendant and the victim were known to each other. I believe the defendant was employed by the victim.

“Damage was caused to an Enterprise van. His mobile phone was seized. There is a long-standing history between the victim and the defendant about money.

“He made threats. He held a petrol canister, and a lighter was present. He filmed the incident and sent it to his victim. He does set fire to the van. It’s high value.” 

Tiffin pleaded guilty to a charge of arson, intending to destroy or damage or being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed.

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Angus Westgarth, defending, said: “I make no representation. I think my friend might be right that the crown court is the right venue.”

Magistrates told Tiffin he would be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Tuesday, March 12.

They granted him bail on condition he does not contact prosecution witnesses.

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