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Arsonist needs help: Judge

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A Manitoba arsonist who torched his own home won't be sent to federal prison as part of a judge's bid to get him into mental health and addictions counselling.

Instead, Clayton Fehr will remain in the provincial jail system for the next nine months and serve out a two-year period of intensive supervised probation to follow, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Joan McKelvey ruled Thursday.

Fehr, 38, was convicted of arson following a trial earlier this year.

On Jan. 4, 2011, he used an accelerant to set fire to his Altona home for reasons McKelvey found were "largely unexplained," but possibly stemmed from a suicide attempt. The home was a total loss and Fehr's insurer refused to cover the $42,000 cost of rebuilding it. He also suffered burns in the blaze.

Fehr had called his mother just prior to the fire, telling her to "call the funeral director." He has a history of suicide threats and mental illness, although not to the point where he sought to be found not criminally responsible for his actions. A friend of his also testified he had been drinking and "had not been himself" in the days before the arson, said McKelvey.

Fehr also has two prior arson convictions surrounding domestic-related incidents, including one in 2003 where he told police Satan had given him a lighter and he could see "demons in the flames."

Crown attorney Neil Steen sought a prison term of 31/2 years.

But given Fehr's "unique" psychological and addictions issues, McKelvey said it would be better to ensure he was supervised when he gets out. She endorsed a sentence of two years less a day minus 15 months of time Fehr has already served. She rejected a request from defence lawyer Mike Cook that would have seen Fehr get extra credit for his time in remand.

His probation mandates him to attend, participate in and complete any mental-health counselling as directed his Manitoba Corrections worker as well as abstain from alcohol and drugs.

 

— with files from Mike McIntyre

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