Kenilworth woman refuses psychiatric reports after Henry Street Arson

A woman who started a blaze which destroyed part of her Kenilworth home and killed several pet cats refused to see a psychiatrist who visited her in prison.
Warwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice CentreWarwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice Centre
Warwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice Centre

Christine Arnold was charged with arson after admitting fault for the Henry Street blaze in the early hours of February 24.

Her barrister has now told a judge at Warwick Crown Court that she wants to be sentenced without a psychiatric assessment.

But Judge Alan Parker observed that Arnold’s behaviour in the last two or three years, including an incident when she had destroyed thousands of pounds worth of wedding dresses, had become “increasingly bizarre”.

He pointed out that without a psychiatric report to indicate otherwise, he would have to conclude she was a danger and pass an extended prison sentence.

The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to arson at her former post office home and for being reckless whether lives were endangered.

The fire was started in the ground floor living room, and the blaze was tackled by three fire crews from Leamington and Kenilworth after other people raised the alarm at around 5am.

Several cats which were inside the house perished in the fire, but others and three dogs were rescued by the firefighters.

At the time, Arnold was subject to a 12-month suspended prison sentence imposed in August 2013 after going on a drunken rampage in a wedding dress shop.

She had sprayed gold paint on more than 80 dresses at the Wedding Barn business in Ufton, near Leamington, where she had previously worked, as well as smashing computers and other items with a hammer, causing more than £60,000 damage.

After she entered her guilty arson plea in May, her barrister Scott Coughtrie said: “It became apparent when she was arrested that she was suffering from a mental health disorder.

“There has always been a sense of denial of any mental health issues. But there’s now an acceptance of it, hence her plea of guilty today.”

The court heard later that there was still no report on Arnold, who is also said to be a chronic alcoholic - and her case has been unable to progress.

Mr Coughtrie explained: “This is a lady who recognises she has mental health problems.

“On her release on the suspended sentence back in 2013 it was hoped she would engage with the mental health authorities; but that did not happen.

“That sense of reluctance comes from the possibility of a diagnosis she regards as a stigma she denies herself.

“She agreed at the previous hearing to be seen by a psychiatrist for a report, but when the psychiatrist attended the prison she had changed her mind.”

He said Arnold wanted to be sentenced without a psychiatric assessment.

Judge Parker said of Arnold: “She subsequently said she regretted her decision and would be willing to co-operate if given another opportunity, although the probation officer questions the sincerity of this.

“The problem it presents is that her behaviour in the last two or three years has become increasingly bizarre.

“In the absence of a psychiatric report she is at very real risk of receiving an extended sentence because she’s reaching the point at which she could be described as dangerous.”

Adjourning the case to give Arnold one last chance to co-operate with a report, and remanding her in custody, Judge Parker told her: “It is very much in your interest that you co-operate.”

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