Jail for arson woman who torched home

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A housing association resident who set fire to her home in a bid to get re-housed has been jailed for four years.

Debra Wainwright, 48, caused up to 10,000 worth of damage when she torched the curtains of the property in Hemsworth.

After starting the fire Wainwright then knocked on neighbours' doors warning them about the blaze but failed to ring the fire brigade.

Leeds Crown Court heard she wanted to be moved from the area after being targeted by a gang of youths.

Jonathan Devlin, prosecuting, told the court how Wainwright had a long

history of mental health problems and had been moved into the house by Chevin Housing Group.

Her support workers contacted police on July 20 this year and said she had set deliberately fire to her living room.

When firefighters arrived at the property Wainwright told them she had set the curtains alight but no one was in danger as she had warned people.

Wainwright pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Mr Devlin said the incident was not linked to her mental health problems. Wainright was also convicted of an arson offence in 2004 and was given a community punishment order.

Tamara Dove-O'Hara, mitigating, said Wainwright was being harassed by a group of youths who were constantly kicking and knocking at her door.

She had phoned police and spoken to the people who had provided her with accommodation but no action was taken.

Miss Dove-O'Hara said: "She felt she wasn't getting anywhere or getting any assistance.

"She felt backed into a corner. Instead of trying to deal with it in an appropriate way she felt if she effectively burned herself out she would be rehoused.

"It was in some ways a cry for help."

Jailing her, Recorder Duncan Smith said: "You know as well as anybody else that the only sentence I can impose on you for this extremely serious and dangerous offence of arson is prison.

"You alerted your neighbours, which affords you some mitigation, but it shows it was something quite deliberate and premeditated."

Kathy Grogan founded STOP (Start Treating Others Positively) nearly 30 years ago.

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