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'Fire is my friend': Serial arsonist from Windsor declared a dangerous offender

The Superior Court of Justice building in Windsor, Ont is shown in this Apr. 2021 file photo. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor) The Superior Court of Justice building in Windsor, Ont is shown in this Apr. 2021 file photo. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)
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After nearly seven years of arguments and legal proceedings, Patrick Warren has been sentenced to an “indeterminate” period of imprisonment.

Warren, now 44, was convicted of arson in Aug. 2018 for starting a fire in Feb. 2017 at a downtown Windsor bar and restaurant on Chatham Street.

It was his sixth conviction for arson.

“Fire became a means of communication for Mr. Warren,” Justice Renee Pomerance said Tuesday in her decision.

“He sets fires when he is looking for help. He sets fires when he has flashbacks to the abuse he suffered as a child. He sets fires when he is experiencing frustration, sadness, anger and other emotions that he has difficulty understanding and controlling.”

According to Justice Pomerance, Warren has lead a “profoundly tragic life” after suffering “unspeakable” abuse as a little boy.

She noted the first time he tried to commit suicide, Warren was just five years old.

Warren, court heard, was taken from his family and entered the foster care system but he never received the counselling or care he needed.

“Fire is my friend,” Justice Pomerance said Warren once told authorities.

Although no one was hurt during the 2017 fire, Crown attorneys successfully argued arson is a serious personal injury offence and launched a dangerous offender application for his sentence.

“This behaviour poses life-threatening danger to firefighters who must enter fire-filled buildings to extinguish the blaze,” Justice Pomerance said while noting Warren’s actions do not “involve direct infliction of harm” like offenders who are convicted of murder.

Regardless, she told the court releasing Warren would pose a danger to society but not helping him with his complex personal problems would be a breach of his right to not suffer cruel and unusual punishment while in prison.

“There in lies the vexing dilemma at the heart of this case,” the judge said when noting Warren needs serious counselling and therapy for his cognitive issues.

“There is much work to be done to curb his impulsive fire-setting behaviour. However, the state has the obligation to provide the resources necessary to make that a theoretical possibility.”

It's work the judge believes Warren cannot, and will not, receive if he is sent to the federal penitentiary system.

“It is in the hospital setting that he has any hope of potential release by the parole board,” the judge said.

Court heard Warren has been in and out of prison on numerous occasions in his life, with much of it spent in segregation because he is “vulnerable to attack” and he has been assaulted while in general population.

Justice Pomerance said Warren has essentially been “warehoused” thus far in the correctional system with “little exposure to human contact” because of his high needs.

“He has been managed rather than treated,” the judge said.

Justice Pomerance said Warren is not a priority candidate for rehabilitation and since he won’t have a timeline for release, she is worried he won’t get the counselling, therapy and programming he needs from Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

The judge noted programming is prioritized to offenders who are nearing parole.

“The evidence before me indicates what CSC can do. There is little evidence to indicate what they will do, respecting Mr. Warren. Nor is there any confidence that correctional officials will implement a recommendation made by the court,” Justice Pomerance said.

She delivered a partial judgment Tuesday so Warren would be aware of the decision sooner rather than later.

Justice Pomerance told Warren and the lawyers she will provide a fulsome explanation of her findings and some information on how she proposes he will serve his sentence on Mar. 15.

She has asked for the input of Crown Attorney Elizabeth Brown and defence lawyer Daniel Topp on their thoughts on the matter.

CTV News has reached out to Brown and Topp for comment.

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