A Cheshire man whose obsession with false claims of child abuse led him to stalking and arson has been jailed for 20 years at Chester Crown Court.
On 19 February 2019 a jury found Philip Day, 55, of Runcorn, guilty of two counts of stalking a teacher and a head teacher and two counts of arson. He was acquitted of a count of burglary.
He was sentenced today, 31 May 2019, to 15 years imprisonment with an extended licence period of 5 years, making a total of 20 years. He must serve at least two thirds of the term before he can be considered for release.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s case was that Day became obsessed that a pupil at the University of Chester Academy at Northwich (UCAN) school had been sexually abused by one of the teachers.
He also became convinced that the school, the police and the local safeguarding officer were involved in a conspiracy to cover up the abuse and that of other children.
The allegations were thoroughly investigated by the police on a number occasions over a number of years. No corroborating evidence was ever discovered and the alleged victim never made a formal complaint, despite being given several opportunities to do so.
Day started posting videos on social media, claiming the school was a “playground for paedophiles” and naming members of staff that he thought were involved. Again, no evidence was ever found to back up his claims.
He turned up at two open events at the school for prospective pupils and their parents. On one occasion he was aggressive and caused a great deal of fear and alarm to staff, parents and children, some of whom were as young as 8 and 9.
Prior to this, he had been charged with making threats to kill a teacher, but he was acquitted in July 2017. However, he was convicted of harassing another teacher that he claimed had been involved in the abuse of a pupil.
It was after his acquittal that his social media campaign against the teacher concerned, the school, the police and safeguarding began in earnest.
But Day didn’t stop there.
On 22 February Day was interviewed by police officers regarding his harassment of the teacher and head teacher of UCAN. It was during this interview that he became angry and the interview had to be stopped.
Three days later, in the early hours of 25 February 2018, a large number of fires were started at UCAN, destroying a large part of the buildings. Witnesses reported seeing a man at the scene carrying jerry cans.
Investigations revealed that Day had set fire to the property in 20 places, causing £2.4 million worth of damage to the school, which is now known as Rudheath Senior Academy. He was arrested the same day.
Damion Lloyd, of Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: “Philip Day is a driven man, quoting from the Bible and using God as justification for his actions. But his campaign was misdirected and his methods unjustifiable and unlawful.
“He claimed that the school was a ‘playground for paedophiles’ yet, despite a thorough and extensive investigation by both the school and the police, no evidence was found to back this up.
“Despite his conviction for harassment, he continued to post videos on social media where he made the claims all over again.”
The nature of the arson attack in Cheshire led police to link the incident with a multiple ignition arson at a house in Essex on New Year’s Eve 2017.
Day, despite being still married, had become sexually involved with a woman from Essex in July 2017 who had also made claims on the internet about the abuse of children. Again, investigations had proved the claims to be unfounded.
Day backed the woman up in her social media campaign, accusing a man of abuse. On 30 December 2017, Day’s wife’s car was tracked on the motorway heading south. In the early hours of New Year’s Eve, Day set fire to the house where they thought the man she d accused of abuse was staying.
The house is 700 years old and the fire caused £1.5 million worth of damage. Luckily, it was empty at the time.
Damion Lloyd said: “This has been a complex case. To bring this case, the Crown Prosecution Service has had to work with two constabularies, Essex and Cheshire, and both the Criminal and Family Courts. Day represented himself during his trial which also presented us with problems yet it was important that we did all we could to ensure he had a fair trial.
“Day’s offending had become more serious and dangerous as time has went on. The effect of his allegations on the people he accused was devastating but they also had a dreadful impact on the pupils of the school that he claimed he was trying to protect. Now Day has been given a lengthy prison term. We hope this helps those affected by his reckless behaviour to move on with their lives.”