Sunderland underworld enforcer faces years in jail after arson attacks over alleged drugs debt

Alan Smart
Alan Smart

An underworld enforcer who set three fires in a bid to recover an alleged drugs debt is facing years in prison.

Alan Smart was convicted of two offences of arson, and one offence of arson with intent to endanger life after a trial lasting five weeks.

The aftermath of the arson attack in Princess Road, Seaham

The aftermath of the arson attack in Princess Road, Seaham

David Roberts, who helped start the most serious fire, was convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace QC, said that given Smart's record of violence and the seriousness of his offending the court would have to consider a life sentence in his case.

Judge Deborah Sherwin adjourned the case until Tuesday morning to give the lawyers in the case time to prepare legal submissions about sentencing.

The judge said she may sentence the pair on Tuesday, or the case may have to be adjourned for background reports on Smart.

The aftermath of the arson attack in Princess Road, Seaham

The aftermath of the arson attack in Princess Road, Seaham

"One difficulty is because Mr Smart made no reply when questioned by police and did not give evidence I have not heard anything about him," added Judge Sherwin.

Robert Woodcock QC, defending Smart, said his initial view was that he would like Smart to be sentenced on Tuesday.

Caroline Goodwin, QC defending Roberts, said she would not be seeking any reports before Roberts is sentenced.

In the last five weeks, the jury at Teesside Crown Court heard Smart made an arrangement with a large scale drugs dealer to recover debts on the dealer's behalf, and in return Smart would keep some of what he recovered.

One of the alleged debtors was rap singer David Baker who, the court heard, owed a drugs debt of £10,000.

Smart set about trying to recover the debt, and was annoyed when he heard Mr Baker had bought an Audi car while the debt was still outstanding.

Prosecutors said Smart was further enraged by a 'disrespectful' rap song recorded by Mr Baker in which he insulted Smart and members of his family.

Smart set two fires at houses in Seaham known to be occupied by Mr Baker.

The most serious fire at Princess Road trapped Mr Baker's partner at the time, Vicki Barnes, in her bedroom.

She jumped to safety onto the roof of an outhouse.

Ms Barnes told the court she received a phone call from Smart in which Smart indicated to her he had started one of the fires.

Smart, 39, of Shrewsbury Crescent, Humbledon, Sunderland, denied arson on December 23 and 24, both 2011, and he denied arson with intent to endanger life on April 29, 2012.

Roberts, 54, of Sorley Street, Millfield, Sunderland, denied arson with intent to endanger life on April 29, 2012.

Smart was convicted of all charges.

Roberts was convicted of the lesser charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

The jury returned its verdicts after deliberating for more than 12 hours.

Both men were remanded in custody pending sentence.