Norwich City councillor pleads guilty to arson

A Norwich city councillor has pleaded guilty to committing arson at a flat in which he used to live.

Steven Altman, 27, Green councillor for Wensum ward, appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday. He admitted one count of arson at a flat in College Road, Norwich, on March 6.

Altman, pictured, of Grosvenor Road, off Unthank Road, is also charged with committing arson recklessly but this count was not put to the defendant during yesterday's hearing.

Judge Peter Jacobs, the first Honorary Recorder for Norwich City Council in a move designed to strengthen its links with the judiciary, said he would not be able to sentence the case due to his links with the council. But he added arson was a 'frighteningly serious offence' likely to result in 'some restriction on liberty'.

Altman, who was wearing a grey suit and purple shirt, was bailed and ordered to reappear at court on December 6.

A spokesman for City Hall said the council would not be in a position to offer a formal response until after sentencing.

If a councillor is found guilty of a crime within five years of the day of election or since his election and receives a sentence of three months or more – then they are disqualified from being a councillor.

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But if cleared or convicted with a sentence of less than three months then they are free to continue to stand as a councillor.

Claire Stephenson, leader of the Greens on Norwich City Council, said: 'Steven's colleagues and friends are still giving him all the support they can.'

Altman is a former president of the University of East Anglia student union and is in his second stint as a city councillor.

He represented Mancroft ward from 2006 to 2007 before he was replaced by the previous Lord Mayor of Norwich, Tom Dylan.

In the last civic year Altman served as one of the consorts to Mr Dylan, the city's first Green Lord Mayor.

He made a comeback in last September's elections which were triggered when 13 councillors were made to step down after the former Labour government's decision to hand Norwich unitary status was declared unlawful. He triumphed in Wensum ward with 887 votes – 144 ahead of Labour's Vaughan Thomas.

His profile on the council website states that he has volunteered with a number of different charitable organisations and his main areas of interest are transport and tackling anti-social behaviour. In his spare time he enjoys playing the classical guitar.

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