Woman remanded for psychiatric tests after guilty arson plea

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  • Christine Arnold pleaded guilty to arson at her Henry Street home
  • Psychiatric tests must be completed before she can be sentenced in what could take three months
  • Several cats perished in the fire and the house was damaged

A “chronic alcoholic” who started a fire at her Henry Street home was remanded in custody for psychiatric tests after pleading guilty to arson.

Christine Arnold pleaded guilty to arson and to being reckless where lives were endangered following the fire in which several cats perished.

There has always been a sense of denial of any mental health issues. But there’s now an acceptance of it, hence her plea of guilty today

Defence barrister Scott Coughtrie

The 54-year-old appeared at Warwick Crown Court via a video link from Peterborough prison where she is being held in custody.

The fire broke out downstairs in her terraced home in the early hours of the morning on February 24.

Alarms were raised by neighbours at around 5am but several cats perished in the fire during this time.

Others, along with three dogs were rescued by firefighters or taken in by neighbours.

The house, a former Post Office, also suffered significant damage after the fire was started, either on purpose, or through recklessness.

After entering the guilty plea, defence barrister Scott Coughtrie said: “It became apparent when she was arrested that she was suffering from a mental health disorder. I ask for a report in relation to her mental health.

“There has always been a sense of denial of any mental health issues. But there’s now an acceptance of it, hence her plea of guilty today.”

Recorder Stephen Linehan QC adjourned the case and remanded Arnold in custody - questioning why it had taken so long for the psychiatric reports to be called for.

Speaking to Arnold, who was said to be a ‘chronic alcoholic’, he said a final sentence could not be made for at least three months while tests are finally completed.

“The next step is for the court to sentence you,” he said.

“But what your solicitor and barrister want to do, in your interest, is to get a report from a psychiatrist to find out what was going on at the time of this offence and what your present position is.

“All that takes time. Because you did not make it clear you would plead guilty until today, they have not been able to start that process.

“There is going to be a delay before that can be achieved.”

An earlier hearing had to be adjourned after Arnold was not granted Legal Aid because she failed a means test because of the value of her house.

But Mr Coughtrie pointed out: “But this is arson in which her whole house burnt down.”

At the time of the fire, Arnold was subject to a 12-month suspended prison sentence after going on a drunken rampage in a wedding dress shop.

She sprayed gold paint on more than 80 dresses at the Wedding Barn in Ufton where she once worked, and smashed computers with a hammer causing more than £60,000 of damage.