A STAFFORD woman who set fire to her flat while in a drunken stupor has been jailed for public protection.
Residents, including young children, had to be evacuated from the block as firefighters tackled the blaze in Oaktree Close, Western Downs.
The firestarter, Gaynor Northwood, did nothing to alert her neighbours or raise the alarm, just stood outside screaming that no-one was helping her, Stafford Crown Court heard.
Paul Spratt, prosecuting, said Northwood had set fire to the curtains and the blaze quickly took hold, with flames engulfing the room.
The defendant went to a neighbour, Lisa Phillips and told her what she had done, but it was Ms Phillips who raised the alarm.
All the residents in the small block, among them a 14-month old child, were evacuated.
Under normal circumstances, a mother and her six-year-old would have been next door but for a change in her work shift.
No-one was harmed or injured.
Northwood, aged 39, formerly of Oaktree Close admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. She was given an extended sentence of nine years - four years imprisonment and a further five years on licence.
Judge Michael Challinor branded her “a significant risk to be public”.
“I must impose a sentence to protect the public,” he told her.
“You did nothing to warn your neighbours of the danger. You had threatened to set fire to your flat on previous occasions. Only a week earlier you had trashed your flat and threatened to burn it down.
“You have a worrying preoccupation with fire setting.” The judge heard that a psychiatrist had found Northwood had a personality disorder with explosive acts and no control when in drink.
Judge Challinor ordered that on her release from prison she must continue treatment for her alcoholism or go straight back to jail.
Mr Spratt said more than £11,000 worth of damage had been done to the local authority flat by the blaze on December 12 last year.
Northwood, a mother of one, was arrested at the scene “plainly affected by an excess of drink”. She told officers she regularly drank four or five bottles of wine or spirits a day.
Stephen Bailey, defending, said Northwood had been the victim of a string of abusive relationships.
“Offences like this are often described as a cry for help and in this case it is not a cliche.
“On this day she had been in touch by phone with agencies supposed to help people in her position.
She got no help and reached the end of her tether.
“She can’t remember much about [the fire]. She acted stupidly, recklessly and what she did was dangerous.”