Decision to release arsonist 'disastrous'

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The Independent Online
A DECISION that released a disturbed woman back into the community and led to the death of an elderly woman was 'disastrous', a judge said yesterday.

Mr Justice Rougier said a mental health review tribunal's absolute discharge of Paula Bailey from Rampton Special Hospital in July 1990 was 'irresponsibility that I find breathtaking. It bears a heavy burden for what happened afterwards'.

In May 1992, Bailey, 60, set fire to her semi-sheltered accommodation on Oak Tree Lane estate, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Her neighbour Agnes Goodwin, 83, died in the blaze.

Since 1974, Bailey's convictions included criminal damage, arson and an attack on a 92-year-old woman. She was detained at Rampton several times - being periodically discharged and recalled - until her absolute discharge. At Nottingham Crown Court in May she was convicted of arson and manslaughter. Sentence was adjourned for reports.

The judge, sitting at the High Court in London yesterday, said Bailey was a 'continuing danger'. Sentencing her to life imprisonment and fixing the period to be spent as punishment at five years, he said: 'The time has come when we cannot take any more risks.'

The judge said he would have preferred to send Bailey to hospital as there was no prison which was suited to her 'troubled mind and needs'. But he could not do so at present. He expressed the 'strongest possible hope' that the Home Secretary would take steps to transfer her to hospital in the future.

Experts divided, page 8

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