An arsonist set fire to the sheets on her bed as she wasn’t allowed out of her mental health unit for a cigarette. Derby Crown Court heard staff at Derby’s Radbourne Unit saw Oakley Norris clutching a lighter in her room after the fire alarm sounded shortly before 2am one morning.
And despite wanting to stay in jail – where she has been since being arrested earlier this year – a judge told the 25-year-old she would be better helped by the probation service out in the community. The defendant’s barrister, Steve Cobley, said: “She is worried about the imposition of a community requirement as she struggles with her mental health.
“This offense came out of her long-standing mental health issues and she’s sorry for the way she behaved. She had difficulties in her life at the time and terrible things have happened to her in her life.
“There are things in place for her which means there is a safety network around her.”
Sarah Allen, prosecuting, said the incident took place at around 1.50am one morning earlier this year.
She said Norris, of Long Eaton, was told the last time she would be able to go out for a cigarette was 10.30pm, just over three hours earlier.
The prosecutor said: “The fire alarm was activated and a member of staff went to the defendant’s room where she saw her with a lighter in her hands trying to light the sheets on her bed.
“The sheets were on fire, a member of staff went into the room and knocked the lighter out of the defendant’s hand and tried to get her to leave the room but she would not leave and so was lifted out.
“She explained that she did what she did as she was not allowed to go out for a cigarette.”
Norris, of Wilsthorpe Road, pleased guilty to Arson.
Recorder Michelle Heeley QC handed her a 12-month community order, with 40 rehabilitation sessions with the probation service and a 31-day accredited programme.
She said: “This was a spur of the moment incident with very little damage, mercifully.
“You have been in custody now for four months – the equivalent of an eight-month sentence.
“I want to help you and there is help in the community from the probation service.
“I am please you are making progress (at HMP Foston Hall) but that does not mean I can give you a prison sentence just to keep you in prison.
“I have to think about the long-term plan for you and I hope you understand that.”