A mum-of-three who deliberately set fire to her own home was jailed for 22 months today (May 19).
A judge told Lisa Overton that while he accepted imprisonment would have a harmful effect on her young children there was an “overwhelming public interest in cases of this sort in making it clear what the consequences are if someone deliberately sets fire to their home and puts at risk the lives of others.
“The seriousness of the offence, the danger caused to others and the public interest are such the only appropriate punishment can be achieved by immediate custody,” said Judge Neil Flewitt, QC.
The dramatic fire broke out in the first floor of Overton’s home on Fylde Road, Southport, on the evening of December 10 last year causing major damage.
The house is owned by her 94-year-old grandmother who is distressed at being unable to return to the family home she has had for over 50 years and is currently now in a nursing home.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that after starting the blaze in her bedroom, while the rest of the family were absent, Overton smashed the window and was heard by neighbour Anthony McCulloch screaming for help.
“He bravely kicked in the door of the address and she shouted, ‘my dogs, my dogs’. He confirmed only the defendant and dogs were in the property and managed to take her out of the address to safety.
“He went to the back of the property and discovered the dogs were running around in the garden,” said Chris Taylor, prosecuting.
33-year-old Overton, who had been at the “lowest ebb” of her life suffering from depression and drinking too much, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless whether life was endangered.
Mr Taylor said that telephone messages prior to the blaze showed she was struggling with her mental health although she was supported by her family who loved her.
She pleaded guilty on the basis that she had been actually fatigued on the day of the fire as a result of fibromyalgia and suffering from depression and anxiety.
About 6.30 pm her husband and mum Gillian Gill went to Ormskirk to collect their children from his parents. While there Overton rang asking her mum to take her to Chorley to see a friend but her mum declined.
“In response she said, ‘Right I will revert back to what I was going to do’ and put the telephone done. Mrs Gill rang her straight back and the defendant said, ‘I’ve killed the dogs and I have set the house on fire. Mrs Gill was shocked and could hear fire and smoke alarms in the background,” said Mr Taylor.
Overton’s husband David rang the fire service and police and they headed back to their semi-detached home. Meanwhile a neighbour alerted those living immediately next to the blazing house and they evacuated unhurt.
Fire brigade officers discovered that the fire had been started at the foot of Overton’s bed and all the property inside that room were damaged by the fire. As the door had been left open the blaze spread to the landing and bathroom and there was extensive damage to the roof and joists.
Three fire engines attended the scene and the court heard that the cost of their attendance and compiling a report into the incident cost a total of £3,912 plus VAT.
Overton was initially aggressive with paramedics but calmed down and after being treated at hospital was taken to Belle Vale police station. When interviewed she spoke of her mental health issues and said she did not recall starting the fire.
“She explained she had woken up and everything was hot and orange and said she had called her mother.”
Peter Killen, defending, said that Overton has no previous convictions and was of “exemplary good character and posed a low risk of re-offending.
Alcohol dependency was an issue and prescription drugs and the use of alcohol was linked to her deteriorating mental state. She feared if she revealed how bad it was her children would be taken off her and she was in “a downward spiral of despair.”
She has been making good progress while on remand and “has managed to clear her head,” added Mr Killen.
Community groups across Sefton come together to restore a once popular running track on Rimrose Valley Country Park