Woman who started house fire in Bellshill has been spared jail

A woman who set fire to her Bellshill home because she wanted the council to find her another house avoided a prison sentence.

Hamilton sheriff

Neighbours in the block of flats had to be evacuated as thick smoke engulfed the building in Glencalder Crescent.

Julie Stafford, 43, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court and admitted starting the fire on January 19 last year. The court heard it caused damage estimated at £10,000.

Sign up to our GlasgowWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Jennifer McCabe, prosecuting, said: "The accused told two friends she was going to set fire to her home. She didn't want to live there anymore and thought by doing this she would be moved somewhere else.

"She handed her friends two bags with belongings then poured two bottles of nail polish remover on the carpet and set it alight."

Stafford then called the fire service and waited outside for them to arrive.

The fiscal added: "Police officers attended and saw she was visibly upset. She was screaming that there were pictures of sentimental value inside. Officers twice had to stop her as she tried to re-enter the building."

The front door and hallway were badly damaged and there was "serious smoke damage" elsewhere in the block of flats .

Ms McCabe stated: "Stafford claimed she'd received threats from a man who said he would burn her house down but she was later arrested."

Sentence had been deferred for a psychiatric report and defence agent Ian Scott told the court: "There is a lengthy history of drugs misuse, but she accepts she must shoulder responsibility for this crime. However, she was not herself at the time.”

He then asked that a non-custodial sentence be tried.

Sheriff Linda Nicolson put Stafford under supervision for 18 months and ordered her to attend addiction and mental health services. She must also do 180 hours of unpaid community work

The sheriff told her: "This offence was very serious and it's fortunate that it did not result in injury or more serious damage. I'm satisfied that, because of the direct connection between your mental health issue and this offence and the prospect of you successfully addressing your difficulties, an alternative to custody can be tried.”