Jail for drunk Rishton grandmother who set fire to her own bedroom

Bernadette Meadowcroft, who was jailed for two-and-a-half-years

Bernadette Meadowcroft, who was jailed for two-and-a-half-years

First published in News

AN ARSONIST grandmother who struck for the fourth time when she torched her bedroom has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Drunken cleaner Bernadette Meadowcroft, 44, lit a piece of paper and dialled 999.

When the fire brigade arrived at her mid-terrace property in Chapel Street, Rishton, six minutes later, officers forced entry and found her asleep in bed next to the flames, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told Meadowcroft claimed she had seen a flash from a socket above where the fire had taken place.

When no electrical fault was found, she blamed the blaze on smoking in bed.

An officer then found a piece of paper that appeared to be the cause and the defendant was challenged and confessed: “It was me. I did it. I got the paper and I lit it.”

Meadowcroft, who still lives in the property, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered on May 21 last year.

Emma Kehoe, prosecuting, said the defendant was interviewed by police the next day and said she had had four or five cans of very strong lager. On a scale of one to 10 of drunkenness, she said she was eight.

The hearing was told in 1990, Meadowcoft was convicted of three arson allegations and had been given a suspended sentence. Mark Lamberty, for Meadowcroft, said a psychiatric report stated she was not suffering from any specific illness.

He said: “There are obviously some very concerning features abut this case. There is no question about that.

“She has been drinking to excess in recent times. She, nonetheless, for the last 12 months, has held down a job as a part-time cleaner.”

He added that Meadowcroft looked after her two grandchildren at weekends.

Passing sentence, Recorder Anthony Cross, QC, said there was no evidence that the neighbouring houses were occupied, the fire had not taken hold and it was confined to the bedroom.

The judge said 23 years ago, when Meadowcroft was 21, she had committed three offences of arson. They were committed under the instructions of another, it was said, she had been living rough, wanted to move and used fire as a way of forcing that move.

Recorder Cross continued: “It’s plain to me that there is a real risk, as demonstrated by the facts of these convictions, committed as long ago now as 23 years and the fact of this conviction, that you will turn to arson as a means of resolving issues.”

“I agree your focus is on harming yourself and not harming others.

“I have formed the view that you present a real risk to the general public that can only be cured by a custodial sentence.”

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