A MAN who set fire to Newport’s Fourteen Locks Canal Centre just because he wanted to burn something was locked up for two years yesterday.

Benjamin Jones, 20, of no fixed adress, pleaded guilty to arson after setting fire to the centre in the early hours of November 12 last year, causing more than £66,000 worth of damage.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Jones visited a friend’s house in Bettws that day and drank four litres of cider and smoked cannabis.

Jason Howells, prosecuting, said he then went to a shop near the canal centre in Rogerstone for food but the shop was closed. Mr Howells said Jones found a lighter in his pocket, his brain clicked and he thought “let’s go and burn something”.

Jones set fire to the centre’s two outside vents and watched the flames reach four to five feet high.

Mr Howells said Jones watched the fire for five to ten minutes and thought how nice the flames looked.

He made no attempt to put out the flames and dropped the lighter.

The court heard police found Jones nearby but he denied knowing anything about it and they found nothing on him to link him to the fire.

They then gave him a lift back to his friend’s house.

Mr Howells said he handed himself in to police after seeing a report about the fire in a local newspaper.

Harry Baker, defending, said Jones pleaded guilty to arson at the first opportunity.

He said Jones had a difficult background, going off the rails at 14 and misusing cannabis.

Mr Baker said he is now reunited with his family and said there has been an important change in him.

Judge Neil Bidder said psychiatric reports showed Jones does not have a pathological interest in lighting fires.

He said the centre was a valuable community resource and there was no reason for Jones setting the fire. Any offence of arson is serious and is potentially very dangerous, he said.

● TOM Maloney, from the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre, said: “This has been a long road for us. I think a custodial sentence was appropriate.

This was a serious incidence of arson. We are still putting the centre back together.”

He said they hope the sentence will serve as a deterrent.

The centre was closed for three weeks following the fire. It is hoped work to repair the centre will be completed by mid-April.