A MAN who tried to burn down a church and Sikh temple over a "grudge" against religion has been jailed for four years.

Paul Johnson poured petrol on the doors of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Sheriff Brae, Edinburgh, and set it alight.

The August attack happened in the early hours while a family of five was sleeping in their home within the premises.

They were alerted by a man heading to the temple and firefighters extinguished the flames.

The incident happened shortly after Johnson, 49, carried out a similar attack at Leith Methodist Church, which did not result in serious damage.

When arrested later in Leith, Johnson told police he wanted to watch the premises burn down, confessing to officers: "I did it."

Yesterday the High Court in Edinburgh heard Johnson, who admitted wilful fire-raising aggravated by religious prejudice, had not known to which faith groups the buildings belonged.

Passing sentence, Lord Boyd of Duncansby described his actions as "reckless and wicked".

He said: "These were clearly planned attacks. You had earlier purchased a jerry can from a local petrol station. You went back some time later and purchased petrol. You were seen outside the temple on three occasions lighting paper and throwing it towards the door.

“I had hoped to learn something more about your motivation and your background from the criminal justice social work report, but it appears that while you were polite towards the author of the report you did not properly engage in the process.

“What is clear is that you seem to have some sort of grudge against religion or religious authority and decided to take it out on two nearby religious buildings.

“You told police officers that you were confident that no one was in the building and that fire officers would not be at risk because of their training. You were of course wrong about people being in the building and your actions did put people at risk."

Johnson, listed as a prisoner in Edinburgh, admitted the religiously-aggravated offending.

The judge said: “It is clear from what I can glean about these offences that they were motivated by a grudge against religion or religious authority in general rather than prejudice or bigotry against any one group.

"Indeed you appeared unaware of the religious denomination of the buildings themselves."

Detective Inspector Grant Johnston commented: "Paul Johnson showed absolutely no concern for the safety or wellbeing of those in or around either place of worship when he started these fires.

"We treat all hate crime incidents with the utmost seriousness."