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UKIP councillor receives suspended prison sentence for arson offence

Rushmoor Borough Councillor Malcolm Small has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for two years

UKIP's Cllr Malcolm Small after being elected to Rushmoor Borough Council in May 2012

UKIP councillor Malcolm Small has received a suspended prison sentence for an arson offence committed last month, putting his future at Rushmoor Borough Council in doubt.

Small, who represents West Heath, set fire to several items of clothing belonging to his wife Kim Van Opdorp after a row over a social engagement at his home in Brewers Close, Farnborough, on February 4.

At Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on Friday, he was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for two years.

Kate Prince, prosecuting, told the court the offence was triggered by an argument between Small, 48, and his wife of more than 10 years on February 4 over who they would be inviting to the Mayor’s Ball on Valentine’s Day as their guests.

Miss Van Opdorp left the house and returned to find Small had taken what she estimated as £2,000 of clothes from her wardrobe, including the dress she was planning to wear to the ball and his own tuxedo, and put them on a pallet in the back garden.

Ruth Cassidy, defending, said Small had "seen red" after the argument and regretted his actions.

She said Small had taken only a "handful" of "cheap" clothes, was careful not to let the fire spread and had tidied up afterwards.

“It was a complete moment of rage,” she said. “When he saw the flames he felt very remorseful.”

She said there had been "rather a history" of domestic violence in Small’s marriage, with both parties claiming to be victims, but that neither had ever been charged with any offences.

Miss Cassidy added that Small still loved his wife, but she had said the marriage was over.

She said Small realised he was drinking too much and had approached his GP about seeking help for his behaviour. He is now taking medication for bi-polar disorder and may also be referred for counselling.

“He recognises there are issues he need to address,” said Miss Cassidy.

Small, who runs a business selling hot dogs in Farnborough, had already admitted the charge of arson at Aldershot Magistrates’ Court on February 20.

In the lead up to the sentencing, he had been subject to conditional bail which demanded he not leave his address between 7pm and 7am and not contact Miss Van Opdorp. However, he breached the latter condition and was fitted with an electronic tag on March 3.

At the sentencing, he was said to have one previous conviction for assault. He was also told to pay £85 court costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

He will remain under supervision for two years and must partake in 32 'building better relationships 'sessions. A restraining order was also imposed, forbidding him from contacting Miss Van Opdorp for two years.

Under the Local Government Act, a councillor is automatically disqualified from their position if they receive a custodial sentence of more than three months.

While Cllr Small’s sentence does not exceed this limit, Conservative council leader Peter Moyle has already called for him to resign.

The court heard that Small had discussed his future with Rushmoor chief executive Andrew Lloyd and had been assured he could remain as a councillor if the three-month prison sentence was not exceeded.

Small declined to comment after his sentencing.

 
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