Woman jailed for house fire - Leighton Buzzard

04/04/2014

A Leighton Buzzard woman, who started a fire in her home and then sat in the garden drinking so she could watch the flames, was jailed for 18 months today, Friday, 04 April 2014.

Yvonne Silvester caused the fire after going on a drinking binge and dropping her cigarette on her sofa.

Luton Crown Court was told her heavy drinking had started because of a corrosive and abusive relationship she had found herself in. But the court was told that after the fire took hold at her home in Meadow Way in the town, she lost cherished possessions, including photos of her dead parents.

Silvester appeared for sentence on a charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered. The particulars of the charge stated that on 24 September last year she had destroyed by fire a property and was reckless as to whether the life of a lodger who was present would be endangered.

The court heard her lodger was upstairs in his room when he became aware of a fire downstairs. He got to the top of the stairs and could see the defendant at the foot of the staircase in her dressing gown.

Ian Hope prosecuting told the court when he went down he could see the sofa alight. Mr Hope went on: "She sat on a garden bench and drank from a bottle of cider saying it was better to watch the flames from there."

In fact Mr Morris alerted neighbours and the fire brigade were called.

The court heard the ground floor of the three bedroom house was gutted and when a door was opened there was a "flashover," which blew out a window.

Judge Richard Foster hearing the case was told tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage had been caused.

The defendant, who was intoxicated, was arrested and said she had fallen asleep and her burning cigarette end must have dropped down the sofa causing the fire.

The court was told that back in 2007 there had been a kitchen fire at the same property while Mrs Silvester was at home, which had not resulted in any charge being brought against her.

Silvester, who appeared in the dock in custody following her arrest back in September, was said by her barrister, Grant Vanstone, to have a drink problem. He said that following the break up of her previous marriage she had brought the ex council house in Meadow Way.

However, in 2007, she had begun a new relationship with another man and it was eventually decided he would be a joint mortgage holder. The court was told that the relationship between the defendant and this new man, who was not the lodger, was a difficult one.

Mr Vanstone said his client now recognised that it had been an "abusive relationship," with the result that she would embark on binge drinking sessions at times of stress.

Shortly before the fire, Mr Vanstone said the man had informed the defendant he was leaving her. "The drinking episode was brought on by the corrosive relationship," he said.

Up until 2007, Mrs Silvester had been a hard working caring lady who worked in care institutions, the court heard.

Passing sentence, Judge Foster said: "Once a fire is started it can quickly get out of hand. It's the risk to life which is the serious nature of arson. He said once the fire had started she had done nothing about it.

He said: "You did nothing adequate about it and went outside and watched the fire take hold before phoning the authorities."

He jailed her for 18 months, which means that because of the time she has spent in custody on remand, she will be free within the next couple of months.

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