Ipswich: Woman jailed over blaze
KESGRAVE: A troubled 52-year-old woman who set fire to her rented home before she was due to be evicted is today starting a jail term.
Beverley Manning was sentenced to 20 months in prison – despite a judge previously considering a suspended sentence.
Manning admitted setting light to her home in Grantche- ster Place, Kesgrave, on New Year’s Eve. She was drunk when she set light to a boiler cupboard in her rented semi-detached bungalow. The blaze spread through the hall and kitchen.
Manning, who was said to be estranged from her family, had left a note suggesting she was going to commit suicide.
Sentencing her at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge John Devaux told Manning a custodial sentence was inevitable.
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He said: “You were going through a tough time, having lots of problems and you claim to have little recollection of the incident.
“I have no alternative, but to impose an immediate custodial sentence.” However, at a previous hearing the same judge said he was thinking of giving Manning a suspended sentence.
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At the time he was forced to remand her in custody as she had no official address and no guarantee of a bed within the town’s emergency accommodation shelter. The probation service reported that there were only two beds available that night.
Several agencies were contacted, but none could find accommodation and, as a result, she had been remanded in custody for seven days until Tuesday’s hearing. Manning’s case was previously criticised by homelessness charity Crisis. Duncan Shrubsole of the charity said at the time: “This case is a sad indictment against the state of the homelessness safety net in 21st-century Britain.
“That a woman who should be walking free from prison must be put back behind bars as there is literally no other form of shelter available to her is a scandal.”
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