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Norwich Green Party's shock at prison sentence for Wensum ward city councillor Steven Altman who was jailed after admitting arson at College Road flat

PUBLISHED: 09:50 31 January 2012 | UPDATED: 14:34 31 January 2012

Green Party city councillor Steven Altman, who has been jailed for arson.

Green Party city councillor Steven Altman, who has been jailed for arson.

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The Green Party has spoken of its shock at the jail sentence for Steven Altman and called for more support to be made available for people with mental illness.

Altman, 27, Green councillor for Wensum ward, was jailed for 14 months after he admitted arson at the flat he was living in at College Road, off Earlham Road, in March last year.

A decision not to proceed with a second, more serious charge, was taken after psychiatric reports revealed Altman was suffering from severe depression and had no idea his actions would lead to others being harmed.

Norwich Crown Court heard that Altman, of Grosvenor Road, off Earlham Road, had split from his girlfriend a couple of days before starting the fire in the bathroom of his flat in an attempt to “take his own life”.

Sentencing Altman, Judge Nicholas Coleman said: “Those who set fires can expect to go to prison. It’s such a dangerous thing to do, particularly in residential areas, no matter how much they may be thinking about themselves rather than others.”

But Claire Stephenson, leader of the Green group at City Hall, said: “We are utterly shocked to hear that Steven Altman has received a prison sentence.

“It appears that the recommendation of the probation service which advised that Steven shouldn’t go to prison has been ignored.

“A vulnerable person who was seeking to end his own life, and who is no threat to the community, should not be sent to prison. At no time did Steven intend to harm anyone other than himself and he had no intention of causing damage to anybody’s property.

“Although Steven has made a good recovery, depression can recur and he needs support to maintain his recovery.”

Ms Stephenson said her Green colleague wanted to thank people in Wensum ward for their support and had said he felt honoured to have represented them. She added: “I would like to thank Steven for his work as a councillor. He has worked hard for residents in his ward, helping to restart the Friends of Marlpit Wood, for example. Steven has also helped a number of individuals, ensuring that a new grit bin was installed on Winchcomb Road, amongst other things. He also helped residents campaign to protect the Grove pub and then to get the site cleared.

“As well as being a councillor, he was the welfare officer at the University of East Anglia student union, worked for the university’s Nightline counselling service and volunteers in Oxfam.”

She added: “The Green Party believes that there should be more support for people who are suffering from depression, particularly in the early stages.”

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