Grandma arsonist from Leek ‘heard voices’ telling her to torch hostel

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A Grandma from Leek has been jailed for setting her room on fire at a Salvation Army Hostel using a lighter and aerosol.

Alison Sutherland, 49, from Furmston Place, Leek, blamed ‘voices in her head’ for the blaze in April last year, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court was told.

Mother-of-four Sutherland initially denied intent and “in a docile, confused state” said the fire was started accidentally.

Prosecuting, Rob Smith, told the court: “A thick cloud of smoke could be seen coming from Sutherland’s room.

“A resident tried to open the door after the fire alarm had started going off.

“Sutherland had tried to block the door with a cupboard and wardrobe.

“Upon entering the room, he managed to locate the source of the fire to her wardrobe and tried extinguishing it before the fire brigade were called.”

Mitigating, Paul Cliff, said: “Sutherland has been suffering from a form of psychotic disorder.

“She has been held in custody since August last year and has been paranoid, delusional and was not able to understand the case properly.

“After her recovery period during the months of October, November and December, she became lucid to her case in January 2018.

“She pleaded guilty shortly after and states she only ever wanted to hurt herself and not others, admitting voices in her head told her to start the fire.”

The court heard Sutherland had a troubled upbringing and suffered from substance abuse.

“She looks forward to any interventions that are opted to her to help her mental state and substance abuse,” added Mr Cliff.

Sutherland was also charged with possession of cannabis and failing to surrender to bail on May 22, 2017, after leaving Staffordshire until August, 2017.

She was jailed for two years for arson, with a one month concurrent sentence for failing to surrender to bail, a victim surcharge and a destruction order on the cannabis.

Jailing Sutherland, Judge Paul Glenn said: “You are a 49-year-old woman with four children, and a grandchild I know you are eager to see.

“Your last conviction was back in 1990 for something unrelated and after reading two psychological reports, they show no reason to suggest you suffer from pyromania.

“In a building of 60 rooms and over four floors, luckily no one was injured.

“I believe if you can stay off drugs you will stay out of trouble.”

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