Woman (69) jailed for setting fire to her curtains in a ‘cry for help’

Royal Court. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (37062542) (37693885)

A 69-YEAR-OLD woman who set fire to the curtains in her Andium Homes flat in a “cry for help” has been jailed for two and half years.

The Royal Court heard yesterday that the offence, on 20 October, was the second time that Katherine Michel had committed arson, after she also set fire to her curtains four years ago.

Crown Advocate Adam Harrison, prosecuting, said that on 5.35pm on the day of the more recent fire Michel – who has a history of mental-health problems – had been seen walking around naked outside her flat in Mont Les Vaux, in St Brelade.

Police officers found her in her home, by which time she had put clothes on.

At 7.15pm, flames in the windows of Michel’s flat were noticed by a passer-by, who phoned 999 and rang on the doorbells of the other three flats in the block to alert residents.

Firefighters swiftly extinguished the blaze and Michel was found sitting on the pavement outside.

Crown Advocate Harrison said: “She told the police she didn’t know what had happened.

“Paramedics treated her for smoke inhalation and she told them: ‘I’m fed up with life.’”

Under police interview, Michel gave no-comment answers but she pleaded guilty to arson when she appeared in the Magistrate’s Court later that month.

The flat sustained heat and smoke damage, which cost £15,000 to repair.

The Crown Advocate added that Michel had a history of trauma, as well as depression, anxiety and agoraphobia.

He recommended a sentence of three years in prison.

Advocate Chris Baglin, defending, pointed out that it was “a low-level fire, quickly put out”.

He suggested that his client should be given a treatment order with the Drug and Alcohol Service rather than a prison sentence.

He said: “Almost all her life, there has been alcohol dependence. She is struggling to look after herself from day to day.

“This was a cry for help from a lonely and confused lady, exacerbated by her self-medication with alcohol.”

Advocate Baglin accepted that Michel was at high risk of re-offending when drunk but pointed out: “There has been no offending when she has been sober.”

Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae said the Jurats accepted that Michel had mental-health problems but that the public needed to be protected.

He said: “Fires tend to get out of control, particularly in a case such as this.

“There is always a risk to life. The pre-sentence report does not suggest a non-custodial sentence.”

But he told Michel: “We hope you receive the right support and the right accommodation, in particular, on your release.”

The Jurats sitting were Steven Austin-Vautier and David Le Heuzé.

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