Lawyer set fire to home after it was repossessed

Falkirk Sherrif Court. Picture: TSPL
Falkirk Sherrif Court. Picture: TSPL
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A FORMER local authority solicitor torched his family home in “a fit of emotion” after it was repossessed, a court heard.

Bruce Clayson poured petrol on to a pile of clothing and bedding at the stone-built property, in the centre of Gargunnock, near Stirling.

Falkirk Sheriff Court heard Clayson, 46, then set light to it and the fire took hold, but was contained to one room.

The incident occurred on 22 October last year at Arnlea, The Square, Gargunnock.

The property had been repossessed by Mr Clayson’s mortgage-lender – which had earlier ejected Mr Clayson, his wife Zoe, and their three children from the address leaving most of their possessions still inside.

The court heard Mr Clayson was a solicitor at Stirling Council’s legal services department at the time of the incident.

During his career with the local authority, he had been involved in a series of high-profile cases, including a court battle with waste management businessman Euan Snowie over the millionaire’s bid to restrict the public’s right of access to his lands at Kippen, Stirlingshire.

He also represented a former Chief Constable of Central Scotland in court cases preventing paedophiles using human rights laws to avoid sexual offences prevention orders. Mr Clayson was also depute clerk to the local licensing board.

Mr Clayson, of Arnothil, Falkirk, pleaded guilty on indictment to a single charge of causing damage by wilful fire-raising.

An aggravation alleging that the incident put people in danger was dropped by the prosecution.

Sheriff William Gallacher continued the case until 14 August for the Crown and the defence to agree a narration on the incident.

The court was told that the Crown presently argues there were two places where the fire started while the defence contends there was only one.

Harry Couchlin, defending, said Clayson had set the fire, which he had put itself out before firemen arrived, as “a single emotional act” .

It is understood that Mr Clayson, a solicitor for 20 years, has since surrendered his practising certificate.

The fire was said to have been discovered after smoke was seen billowing out of the property.

A local resident said at the time: “I saw smoke coming out of the roof but the house didn’t go up fully, though there were fire engines there.”

Workmen, who had been due to carry out some jobs at the house also spotted smoke from the blaze.