A drunken arsonist who set fire to a family’s car as they slept in their house only a few feet away had his prison sentence slashed by appeal judges.

Masked with a balaclava, John Buck, 26, set a fire in the back of a Ford Galaxy in Hallows Close, Kelsall, in the early hours of March 3.

Buck, of Yeld Lane, Kelsall, said he could remember little of what had happened because he was so drunk.

He admitted arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, and was jailed for four years at Chester Crown Court in June.

This week, after an appeal by his lawyers, three top judges in London cut the ‘excessive’ sentence to three years.

Mr Justice Cranston said there were more serious examples of this type of offence.

The Court of Appeal heard Buck had been with friends who had told him that their son had had some trouble with another boy who lived in Hallows Close.

Hearing voices telling him he had to ‘do something about it’, Buck smashed the window of the car and set a fire in the back seat.

Afterwards, he sent a text to his friend, who had not asked him to do anything, saying: ‘Job done’.

When firefighters arrived, the fire was smouldering, but despite having been going for 20 minutes, had not spread.

However, an expert said there was a risk it could have spread to the house via another car parked in between.

Buck’s lawyers argued before the judge, sitting with Lady Justice Hallett and Mr Justice Knowles, that the sentence was too long.

Other cases of reckless arson involved a much greater risk of life actually being endangered, they were told.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Cranston said: “It was the victim’s car which was set fire to and not his house.

“There was a risk of the fire spreading, as outlined in the fire officer’s statement. However, it was a smouldering fire without accelerant, which after 20 minutes fortunately had still not done extensive damage to the vehicle.

“The house was detached without the risk of spreading to other houses.

“Moreover, there was considerable mitigation, including that he made admissions almost immediately, was of good character and was prepared to address his personal issues.”

The sentence was cut to three years.

Judge praises man who caught arsonist