A CLERK who started a fire at the premises of a rival company was sentenced yesterday to two years in jail. Magistrate Kevin Ball criticised the Legal Department's failure to send the case to the District Court, which can impose tougher punishments. As he found Fung Wai-ho, a clerk at the Emperor International Exchange, guilty of arson, Mr Ball said he had suggested it was more appropriate to deal with the case in the District Court. But he was told the Magistrate's Court could deal with it faster and the $1,600 worth of damage was too little to justify a District Court trial. Mr Ball told Sha Tin Court he saw no reason to impose a sentence lower than the starting point of two years' imprisonment for similar offences. Fung, 22, had denied setting fire to Tse's Gold Dealing and Investment Company in Tai Wai Road, Sha Tin. On the night of December 10 last year, he splashed inflammable liquid on the locked shutter of Tse's and set fire to it. Two employees were inside at the time. Fung and another suspect fled when the police arrived, but Fung was later arrested with a can of oil and a lighter. The other suspect escaped. Fung told police he was in extreme financial difficulty and he had been forced into the crime by another man. Kevin Egan, defending, said the sentence should be in line with the nature of the offence and the damage caused.