Arsonist admits setting fire to Tory MP’s shed

A man has admitted setting fire to a shed belonging to Conservative MP Mike Freer – but denied it was politically motivated.

Paul Harwood, 42, was charged over a fire last Christmas Eve at the MP’s constituency office in Ballards Lane, north Finchley, north London.

The defendant, who lives in Ballards Lane, was also charged over another arson attack on a bin at the rear of a property in Long Lane, Finchley, on the same night.

On Tuesday, he appeared at the Old Bailey via video link and pleaded guilty to two charges of arson.

The charge relating to the MP stated that on December 24 2023 he “damaged by fire to a shed…belonging to Mike Freer intending to damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be damaged and being reckless as to whether life to others would be endangered”.

The other charge stated that he without “lawful excuse…damaged by fire a bin belonging to another…intending to damage such property or being reckless as to whether property was damaged”.

Harwood’s barrister Tim Williams submitted that the offences were “not in any way politically motivated or targeted”.

A second defendant, Zara Kasory, 32, of Woodhouse Road, north Finchley, denied the same charges and faces trial at Harrow Crown Court on July 1.

Judge John Lodge set a further hearing for March 12 and remanded the defendants into custody.

Mr Freer, 63, was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice on 20 September 2022.

He served as minister for exports and minister for equalities between September 2021 and 6 July 2022.

He was first elected as MP for Finchley and Golders Green in May 2010.