A MAN who torched a lap dancing club after driving his car into the front door had attacked the premises twice before.

Faisal Qaddus was caught on CCTV smashing windows with a hammer a year before the arson last summer.

But the 27-year-old was never prosecuted for the offences after the police learned he is a paranoid schizophrenic his family offered to pay for the damage.

The revelation came as he was jailed for four years at Swindon Crown Court for carrying out the arson at the Dream Lounge last July.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told how Peter Rogers, the club’s owner, was alone in a back office at the Regent Street premises at around 7am on Saturday July 13.

“He heard the sound of tyres and a loud bang. He went downstairs and realised a car had been crashed through the front of the building and was on fire,” he said.

He managed to get out of another door and realised the fire was so strong that it could not be tackled with a fire extinguisher.

Mr Meeke said that had he not reacted when he did there was a real risk he would not have managed to get out unscathed.

He said a street cleaner working at the bottom of Victoria Road had seen a car come down the hill and then park outside the club.

It then reversed at speed into the front door, before the driver climbed out of the sun roof, doused it with petrol and set it alight.

The fire took hold ‘very quickly and very vigorously’, Mr Meeke said, and caused more than £170,000 worth of damage.

He said the car was registered to Qaddus and when officers went to his home his family said he was out and they would call when he returned.

When he was arrested his clothes were taken and found to have petrol on, and CCTV from a garage showed him buying a couple of litres of fuel in a can earlier that day.

“He was interviewed but exercised his right to silence. The only reason people could establish is he had previously damaged the club,” he said.

“He was seen on CCTV on two occasions in 2012 to get out of a car and attack windows of the premises with a hammer.

“No prosecution came of that, the police were aware he had fairly serious mental health problems. Part of the time of the investigation he was out of the country.

“The family, on his behalf, would pay for the damage and he would continue with his treatment. He did it because he said what went on in there was sinful: that is speculation.”

Qaddus, of Amber Court, Swindon, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Alex Daymond, defending, said despite his client’s problem medical experts said he did not need to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act.

Jailing him Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “I have read carefully everything about you and your background and your state of mental health.

“I have to sentence you for these offences of damaging property, arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered. It is a very serious offence.

“At 7am in the morning you went to the club in your car and drove it into the front of the premises and damaged the front of the club.

“You doused the car with petrol, set it alight and ran away. One of the owners was still in the premises.

“This was not the first time that these premises had been damaged by you. The damage by fire was extensive.

“You suffer from a mental disorder diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia which has been susceptible to treatment in the past. You suffered from that at the time of the offence but you were quite aware of what you were doing.”