Drunken arsonist loses appeal

A drunken woman who started a fire outside her daughter’s flat to wake her after she was locked out, has lost an appeal against her jail sentence.

Julie Battisson, 44, of Walsall, set the blaze as she tried to rouse her sleeping 19-year-old daughter after guzzling ten pints of beer in a heavy drinking session in February.

Battisson, of Marklew Close, Shire Oak, was jailed for 18 months at Wolverhampton Crown Court in June after she admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

And now judges at London's Appeal Court have rejected a challenge against her sentence, saying they were 'unable to fault' the term imposed on her.

Battisson was staying at her elder daughter's flat in Broad Lane, Shelfield, Walsall, when the offence occurred.

She returned to the residential block shortly after midnight and, after gaining access to the building, began banging on the front door of the flat.

When she received no answer, Battisson set fire to some clothes, which had been left out in the corridor to be given to charity, in the hope of setting off the smoke alarm and waking her daughter.

A neighbour heard the disturbance and put out the blaze before it spread to some cardboard boxes and a nearby mattress, the appeal judge said.

Battisson, who 'immediately regretted her actions', threw the smoking rags out of a window before anything more than minor smoke damage was caused.

Mr Justice Holroyde said it was 'a very dangerous act' that could have had far more serious consequences if the blaze had spread.

Pre-sentence reports showed that Battisson had a 'sad personal history', having been forced out of her job at a haulier's 'through no fault of her own'.

A psychiatric report revealed that since becoming unemployed she had developed mental health problems and drank excessively, Mr Justice Holroyde explained.

On appeal, her barrister, Devon Small, argued that the sentencing judge failed to adequately reflect her mitigation.

But the appeal judge, sitting with Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice King, said: "We have reflected carefully on this sad case and on the submissions of counsel.We are unable to fault either the judge's approach to the difficult sentencing exercise before him or his conclusions.

"We do not accept that the judge failed to consider the alternatives to immediate imprisonment or to give careful consideration to the personal mitigation."