Suspended sentence for ‘tragic’ arsonist

by Gazette Reporter
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A woman who put a flaming piece of paper through a letterbox due to a dispute about bins has received a partly suspended sentence.

The court heard Gillian Philip (36) was recognised by children in the house who managed to quench the fire with water. The hall carpet was scorched, but the children were not injured.

Philip, formerly of Mac Uilliam Green, Tallaght in Dublin, pleaded guilty at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to damaging her neighbour’s property with fire on October 21, 2015.

She has been in custody since January 2017 and will reside with her father in Co Cork after her release.

Judge Karen O’Connor said it was a reckless act and noted that one cannot control what might occur in an arson attack.

Judge O’Connor noted Philip has limited cognitive function and had “a somewhat tragic life.”

She took into account Philip’s early guilty pleas, the fact she provided a letter of remorse and that she had been using her time in custody in a positive way.

Judge O’Connor imposed a two-and-a-half year sentence, suspending the balance from the sentencing hearing date on strict conditions.

Garda Robert Whitty told Noel Devitt BL, prosecuting, he responded to reports of a house fire in Fortunestown, Tallaght, at 8pm that evening.

He later interviewed two children living in the house in question. One of the children witnessed Philip pushing a piece of flaming laminated paper through the letterbox.

Gda Whitty said on the day in question, the child and her sister were in their mother’s friend’s house. They returned home at around 6pm and went upstairs to get clothes.

One of the girls heard a voice shouting “fire, fire” and calling her mother’s name, and recognised it as that of Gillian Philip.

The child witnessed the paper coming through the letterbox and recognised Philip through the door’s window.

She and her sister were able to quench the fire with water, though the hall carpet was scorched.

The girl discovered the piece of laminated paper used to start the fire. Philip called on the child to give her the paper, but she refused and gave it to gardaí when they arrived.

Gda Whitty arrested Philip that evening. She initially denied involvement, but soon admitted pushing the flaming paper through the letterbox.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, said Philip was motivated by a dispute over bins, where one person’s rubbish was being put into another person’s bin.

Mr Gillane said mother-of-five Philip has limited cognitive function, is prone to paranoia and has a history of alcohol and drug abuse.

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