A DRUG addict who risked a fellow inmate's life by setting fire to his mattress in his jail cell has been given a job testing Chelmsford Prison’s smoke alarms, a court heard.

Gary Haliben was serving a two year sentence for burglary when he started the blaze in October last year.

The 33-year-old was released earlier this year but has been jailed again for six years and two months for drug dealing and a robbery in Southend, as well as the arson offence and having a mobile phone in prison.

Basildon Crown Court heard Haliben started the fire minutes after a cell search. David Baird, prosecuting, said officers saw smoke and forced their way into the cell past a burning mattress which was blocking the door.

Haliben's cellmate was unconscious and needed treatment for smoke inhalation. Haliben was taken to hospital for checks.

Mr Baird said: “In interview Mr Haliben said it was his cellmate that started it.”

Nick Bonehill, mitigating, said although Haliben now admits starting the fire, prison authorities do not consider him to be dangerous.

He said: “Mr Haliban and his cellmate still live on the same wing, the prison have not put him into any sort of specialist unit or segregation. In fact, he has a job in prison.

“His job is to check the batteries in smoke detectors.” He added: “That’s a position he was given after this offence.”

Haliben admitted arson reckless as to whether life was endangered, and possession of a banned item, namely a mobile phone, which was found concealed in his bottom in April 2016.

He also admitted possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin after six wraps were found when he was arrested in Lucy Road, Southend, in June 2015.

His latest offence was the robbery of a 72-year-old man who he pushed over in London Road, Southend, in February this year. Haliben rifled through his pockets while he was on the ground and stole his bank card.

The court heard Haliben was tracked down through forensics after leaving his crack pipe at the scene.

Mr Bonehill said Haliben was taken into care as a child and started taking drugs at a “ridiculous” age.

He has 30 convictions for 57 offences, including burglary, assaulting a police officer and grievous bodily harm.

Judge David Pugh said of the arson: “While this was reckless I bear in mind it was in a prison environment and was therefore was not an environment where it was likely not to be discovered until it got completely out of hand.”

Haliben was handed a 40 month sentence for the drugs offences, 21 months for the robbery, nine months for the arson and four months for the mobile phone, to run consecutively.