Arsonist ordered to stay out of town

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By Jessica Wallace

A 57-year-old Merritt man who lit fire to a Merritt woman's bathroom last year pled guilty today in B.C. Supreme Court and was handed a conditional sentence that includes staying away from his community.

Gary W. Barnett pled guilty to the charge of arson to an inhabited property after lighting a match and setting fire in the bathroom at 1814 A Granite Ave. in Merritt on March 2, 2012.

Crown prosecutor Christopher Balison told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Ball that residents of the home wanted Barnett to leave the property before he went into the bathroom, tossed a lit match and set fire to the bathroom.

"He opened a cupboard and threw a match in and that was it," Balison said.

The match caught fire to material in the bathroom but was put out within minutes because it was contained directly under the water lines.

Barnett informed those in the home that the bathroom was on fire and left before RCMP were called to the scene at about 12:30 p.m. that day.

"RCMP immediately located Mr. Barnett on the street," Balison added.

Balison said RCMP were told by Barnett of his problems with alcohol and that demons in his head influenced his decision to set the bathroom on fire.

Defence lawyer Rob Bruneau told the court that Barnett has struggled with alcohol for years and has a history of substance abuse including use of crack cocaine.

He also said Barnett suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and has been on medication for the disease since 2004.

Barnett has since moved to Kamloops and is seeking psychiatric treatment for alcohol problems. Justice Ball agreed with the Crown and defence's joint submission.

Barnett was handed a conditional sentence—served in the community—for two years less one day that includes prohibition from matches, lighters, smoking tools and incinerary devices, prohibition from visiting Merritt outside of the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. with exceptions from a supervisor, a six-month curfew limiting him to his residence from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., restrictions from contact with those at the place of the offence and to attend counselling for his alcohol problem.

To contact a reporter for this story, email: or call (250) 319-7494.

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