AN ARSONIST who attacked nurses and sparked the evacuation of a hospital’s mental health unit by starting a fire has been jailed.

Liam Bland, 31, spat in the face of one nurse and punched another in the head before starting the fire in the bathroom of the unit at Basildon Hospital on August 4 last year.

Basildon Crown Court heard yesterday how flames from the fire grew nine-feet tall and smoke quickly filled the room.

It led to the building being evacuated with staff and patients rushed to safety.

The court was told Bland, of Butneys, Basildon, was previously diagnosed with drug induced psychosis and social personality disorder, with experts believing he may also have Schizophrenia.

Echo: Jailed - Liam BlandJailed - Liam Bland

Prosecuting, Siobhan Molloy, said Bland went on his rampage after being removed from other patients’ rooms for breaching Covid rules.

She said: “He became very agitated and was kicking doors.

“He racially abused the nurses, spat in one’s face and punched another while he was being detained.

“At about 2pm they saw him coming from the bathroom and was on the phone and heard saying ‘I’ve just set the place on fire.

“Staff saw the flames and smoke filling the room and started to evacuate staff and patients.”

John Hurlock, mitigating, told the court Bland was not taking medication for mental health conditions at the time, choosing to “self-medicate” with drink and drugs instead.

He said: “His condition was made worse by illicit drugs and he didn’t believe the medication would be of any benefit to him.”

Bland admitted arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered and two counts of racially aggravated assault in March on the first day of a trial.

He was jailed for a total of four years and one month, after being sentenced to three years and seven months for arson, two months for racially aggravated assault, and four months for breaching a previous suspended sentence.

The sentences will run consecutively.

Judge Shane Collery: “There comes a point in time where you must realise the courts are going to treat these incidents increasingly serious and the sentences will get longer.

“One of the victims was worried she was going to catch Covid as you had spat at her.

"The flames were the length of the nine-foot wall.”