Petition saves arson mum from jail term

PUBLISHED: 16:34 24 May 2007 | UPDATED: 12:28 04 May 2010

SINGLE mother Nicola Eley, who set fire to a woman s home, has escaped a jail sentence after neighbours signed a petition of support. They told the judge that mother-of-two Eley had acted out of character when she poured petrol through a window, starting

SINGLE mother Nicola Eley, who set fire to a woman's home, has escaped a jail sentence after neighbours signed a petition of support.

They told the judge that mother-of-two Eley had acted out of character when she poured petrol through a window, starting a blaze which caused thousands of pounds of damage.

After hearing from a psychiatrist, Cambridge Crown Court Judge Jonathan Haworth accepted that Eley, 41, was suffering from acute depression at the time of the incident and spared her jail.

He imposed a three-year community order on condition she continued with treatment for her mental health problem.

The court had been told that Eley, of West Drive Gardens, Soham, set fire to Sharon Torrens' home after she was assaulted by her in the town's Red Lion pub.

Eley went to the house at Queensway, Soham last August and poured petrol through a window.

Ms Torrens, her partner and two young daughters were out at the time but lost possessions worth more than £8,000, the court heard.

Eley, who was found guilty of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, admitted starting the blaze but disputed she was being reckless with others' safety.

While she was awaiting sentence, residents launched a petition saying: "We believe this is in no way, shape or form in Nicky's normal character or nature."

Judge Haworth told her that he did not think the public interest would be served in sending her to prison.

After the case, Det Con Paul Atkinson from Ely police, who had dealt with the case, said Ms Torrens was now homeless and living in King's Lynn.

"She was initially disappointed with the judge's decision not to impose a custodial sentence on Nicola Eley but, in hindsight, as there are children involved, she accepts that it was the right decision.

"Nicola Eley is not a risk to anyone else. She is only a risk to herself.

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