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Suspended sentence for Suffolk mother-of-five who admitted arson

PUBLISHED: 05:30 17 April 2019

Caroline Collins, of Minsmere Way, Great Cornard, admitted arson, Ipswich Crown Court heard. Picture: ARCHANT

Caroline Collins, of Minsmere Way, Great Cornard, admitted arson, Ipswich Crown Court heard. Picture: ARCHANT

An alcoholic who started a fire in a bedroom at her Suffolk home has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

Sentencing mother-of-five Caroline Collins to a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years Judge David Goodin said the fire was started in a terraced property and had placed neighbouring properties at risk.

“Offences of arson are serious because in a matter of minutes a whole street can burn down,” said the judge.

Collins, 55, of Minsmere Way, Great Cornard, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered on October 23 last year.

In addition to the suspended sentence she was ordered to attend a Thinking Skills programme and to receive help from the Turning Point recovery organisation.

Richard Kelly, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court, said Collins had had an alcohol problem for 20 years and it had got worse in the last decade resulting in the breakdown of her marriage.

After her husband moved out Collins had called him on a number of occasions and had used emotional blackmail to get him back.

Collins had made several suicide attempts, the last time four days before the arson, said Mr Kelly.

He said that families with young children were living either side of Collins house when she started a fire on a mattress in her son's bedroom.

On the evening of the fire Collins, who sounded drunk, rang her husband and told him he wasn't going to sell the house because she was going to burn it down.

He thought she was joking but she later left several voicemail messages on his phone telling him that she had set fire to the house and that “fire was pouring out of the house.”

Collins also rang her son and told him that the house was on fire but he thought she was lying.

When he went to the house he found it was full of smoke and later discovered his clothes, television and electrical items had been destroyed.

Mr Kelly said the blaze was confined to one bedroom although there was smoke damage to other parts of the building.

Steven Dyble, for Collins, said his client suffered from depression and alcoholism and had no history of starting fires.

He said the fire had been a cry for help and Collins, who had been in custody for five months, was now alcohol free.

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