A man who committed arson on an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Derry has been jailed for five years. Sebastian Prokop had told police, “I don’t like gays” upon his arrest, and the fire on January 9, 2020, caused an estimated £250,000 worth of damages, resulting in the demolition of the venue.
After a trial earlier this year, the 24 year-old man was found unanimously guilty by a jury on June 14, with Judge Philip Gilpen delivering his sentence on Wednesday, August 24.
The judge explained that the evidence against him had been CCTV footage showing a person entering the Envy nightclub and leaving shortly afterwards, soon before the fire started. The footage also showed the perpetrator taking off a cap which was later recovered by police and Prokop’s DNA was found on the article.
At the hearing, a prosecution barrister told the judge, “There is a clear inference of hostility towards the patrons who would have used the Envy Nightclub. The effect this has had on the community, the complete destruction of the nightclub, the economic value of the property which was destroyed, the evidence is that the fire was deliberately started.”
Although defence barrister Sean Doherty argued that there was no proof of Prokop knowing it was a predominantly queer venue, when in the witness box, the guilty party said he had “planned it because it’s a homosexual-sexual club and I am a homosexual-sexual person”. He also admitted to setting fire to bins on the third floor with a lighter.
The court official was then satisfied that the arson attack was aggravated by hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community, and he said that it was obvious that the defendant knew where he was going on the night of the incident and had clear intentions of what he wanted to do.
The Polish native, who was residing in Crawford Square in Derry at the time of the arson attack, has been jailed for five years – half in custody and half on licence, and he may face deportation upon his release.
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