A vicar's son has been jailed for three years for setting fire to a mosque.

Richard Hall, 29, set fire to the Islamic Centre in Ivy Arch Road, Worthing, after an argument with his girlfriend.

During a five-day trial at Chichester Crown Court last month, Hall, who has learning difficulties and an IQ of 66, could not explain how his blood was found inside the building.

Hall, of Iona Close, Broadfield, Crawley, told police he had never been to the mosque but later made a confession at Crawley police station after he walked in asking to be arrested.

However, he backtracked in court saying the confession was made when he was agitated after drinking alcohol while on anti-depressants.

Regular attendees of the mosque discovered the fire at 5.30am the day after the fire was started on the evening of March 10, 2005, but fortunately no one was injured.

Hall, who is known as Ricky and was living in Worthing at the time, was sentenced for arson and burglary at Chichester Crown Court yesterday (MON).

Selwyn Shapiro, representing Hall, said his learning difficulties had been a feature in the case which meant he may have failed to understand the gravity of what he had done.

He said: "During the trial it was put to him that what he had done was a fun thing to do to impress his girlfriend.

"This was child mischief which fits in with his learning difficulties.

"Biologically he is 29 but mentally he is a child and if he was to go to prison the punishment for him will be far greater than for someone who does not have learning difficulties."

Judge Anthony Thorpe said psychiatric and psychological reports made it clear that Hall had been fit to plead and understand the evidence against him.

He said: "That mosque is clearly very important for the local Muslim community, who in today's climate no doubt feel threatened because of recent high-profile trials involving Muslims.

"I have increased the normal sentence by one year because of the very serious aggravating factor that this was a place of worship. I would have taken exactly the same view had it been a synagogue or a church."

After the sentencing Detective Inspector Jeff Lister said: "Throughout we kept an open mind as to whether the attack had been racially motivated in some way. Our inquiries did not bear this out."

Chief Inspector Sharon Rowe, district commander for police in Worthing, said: "What impressed me was the resilience of the Muslim community and their determination that day to hold their main prayers - albeit they had to do so in the open air next to the mosque.

"Fortunately attacks such as this are very rare against any faith or particular group."