Woman sentenced for starting fire causing £5.5 million damages


Jo Palmer was today sentenced at Winchester Crown Court to a total of six years and two months after pleading guilty to perverting the course of public justice and arson.

She started a fire at a building site owned by Castleoak Care Partnership in Gershwin Road, Basingstoke on 10 September 2010. The site, which was empty at the time of the fire, consisted of three blocks of flats that were under construction and the cost of the damages caused by the fire was estimated to be £5.5million.

Following the sentence, Sharon Douglass, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in Wessex said: "Jo Palmer, a 44-year-old- from Basingstoke was a security guard at the time of the offence and intentionally set fire to the building which she was meant to be protecting.

"She then called 999 to report the fire and stated that while she was on duty she noticed a break in and then two boys shouted at her, one punched out at her and got away.

"She gave a detailed account of the incident as well as good descriptions of the boys. However, the investigation revealed that her statement contained a number of discrepancies that she could not explain. Four local boys were arrested and interviewed on suspicion of arson as a result of her false accusation but were later released without charge after their alibis were checked and confirmed.

"Palmer was suspected of being responsible for starting the fire, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute her in 2010. However she subsequently surrendered herself voluntarily at Basingstoke Police Station on 16 December 2011 and admitted that she had started the fire and lied about seeing the boys.

"Fortunately no one was harmed but the fire was so intense that it destroyed the site and caused extensive damage and her lies resulted in the arrest of innocent local youths."

Notes to editors

Jo Palmer was sentenced to 62 months for arson and 12 months consecutive for perverting the course of public justice.