A HOUSEBOAT owner was sent floating down a flooded River Ouse after an arsonist set fire to his mooring ropes, York Magistrates' Court heard.

The boatman had just retired to bed after telling Malcolm Philip Aldrich, 48, he felt unwell, said Melanie Ibbotson, prosecuting.

He felt a sudden jerk and jumped out of bed to find himself adrift on the river in York city centre during the June floods.

Adam Henry, defending, said Aldrich had thought he was doing the boatman a favour by burning the mooring ropes and breaking them. He had believed the boat was stranded on the river bank.

District judge Adrian Lower said the boatman had to be rescued by the York Rescue Boat.

Aldrich, of Victor Street, off Nunnery Lane, pleaded guilty to arson.

“What you did was extremely dangerous,” the district judge told Aldrich.

“When you are sober you probably find it hard to believe you did anything as stupid as this. But you did it and you have to suffer the consequences of it.”

He passed a 16-week prison sentence suspended for two years with 20 days’ rehabilitative activities and ordered him to pay £200 compensation to the houseboat owner.

Ms Ibbotson told him the boat’s propeller was damaged as it moved off the bank.

The district judge also made a five-year restraining order banning him from all contact with the houseboat owner and from going to his property.

Ms Ibbotson said the boat was moored next to Museum Gardens on June 30.

At 10.30pm, the owner heard someone shouting his nickname from the bank and went out to see Aldrich sitting on a bench.

He told Aldrich he was going to bed, only to jump out shortly afterwards when he found himself adrift.

The incident had left him anxious and he wanted the court to stop Aldrich going anywhere near his boat in future.

Mr Henry said Aldrich had been drinking as he tried to cope with issues in his life. He had a long lasting leg injury and had been prescribed opiates as pain relief.

But he was struggling to stop using them and turned to drink to deal with the pain.