Coronavirus: Man jailed for 5G phone mast arson attack

Michael WhittyImage copyright Merseyside Police
Image caption Michael Whitty admitted arson at an earlier hearing

A man who thought 5G technology was linked to coronavirus has been jailed for an arson attack on a phone mast.

Michael Whitty, 47, set fire to its equipment box in Kirkby after reading internet claims about the virus, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

The father-of-three, who had previously admitted arson, was jailed for three years via videolink from HMP Altcourse.

His defence said Whitty acknowledged that his response was “wrong and disproportionate”.

Judge Thomas Teague QC said Whitty’s use of firelighters aimed “to put the mast out of action”.

The judge said Whitty, who had 29 previous convictions, including for assault and for possession of a firearm, had shown genuine remorse and his charitable work demonstrated a “positive side” to his character.

Simon Christie, prosecuting, said three people were seen running away from the blaze at the Vodafone mast on Coopers Lane on 4 April but two have not been traced.

The cost of the damage was between £10,000 to £15,000 and the mast was out of action for 11 days.

It was one of 13 attacks on Merseyside phone masts, the court heard.

Police found firelighters, similar to those found at the scene when they searched Whitty’s home on Perimeter Road in Kirkby.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bogus theories have circulated on social media linking 5G masts with the spread of coronavirus

An analysis of his phone revealed searches for 5G technology and discussions on chat groups about it.

Photos and videos of other phone masts around Liverpool were also found.

‘Genuine view’

Mr Christie said the defendant believed the mast he targeted to be 5G, although it was not clear if there was any evidence to confirm that it was.

Andrew Alty, defending, said Whitty had a genuinely held view about the masts.

He added: “That view may or may not be correct, time will tell.”

Theories claiming 5G technology helps transmit coronavirus have been widely condemned by the scientific community.

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