A MAN has been jailed after starting a fire in his hostel room while in a drunken state.

Anthony Mort, who had been living at the West View House, in Winchester, for seven months, had been stumbling around the city-centre hostel in just his underwear, before returning to his room and setting bedding alight.

The 65-year-old, of no fixed abode, had to be dragged free from his room by members of staff at the hostel, which supports homeless people, after they were alerted by fire alarms.

One member of staff had to be taken to hospital for smoke inhalation following the incident shortly after 4.20pm on July 10, but she discharged herself.

Mort, who had been due to stand trial but changed his plea at the last minute, admitted arson at Winchester Crown Court.

Matthew Lawson, prosecuting, told the court: "He has alcohol issues and had been drinking heavily on the weekend before July 10. He was seen by staff lying in his underpants in the corridor."

Mr Lawson said that Mort then returned to his room and added: "Miss Robson [a West View House worker] entered the room and saw there was flames coming from the bed, and he was on the bed smoking a cigarette."

Miss Robson then dragged Mort out of the room.

The court heard that Mort had told police the fire started when he dropped a cigarette that he was too weak to hold, however evidence from fire experts said that the period of time between him entering the room, and when the fire started was not long enough to have been caused by a cigarette.

The evidence stated that the fire must have been caused by a naked flame.

In mitigation, defence barrister Charles Durrant said: "[Mort] is someone who does care, he is not a malicious or maleficent person. He is a very quiet person who often keeps to himself.

"This was not a deliberate attempt to endanger people at all."

Sentencing Mort to two-and-a-half years in prison, Judge Keith Cutler, the Recorder of Winchester, praised the staff at West View House for their actions to save Mort, and hoped that he would continue to rehabilitate while in prison.