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Joanne Atkins jailed for arson attack
A WOMAN who twice set fire to her council home, putting the life of a paramedic in danger, has been jailed for three years.
Joanne Kate Atkins, 38, deliberately set fire to her kitchen in Hadrian Avenue in Tang Hall and then, 40 minutes after emergency services left, started a second fire to the horror of the family living next door.
York Crown Court heard Atkins was twice rescued from her burning home and forcibly prevented from returning to it by York paramedic Ron Wilkinson.
Emergency services were first called out to a fire at 8.30pm on May 18, when Mr Wilkinson found Atkins in the smoke-filled property and after some conversation managed to force her out of the flat to safety, blocking her way when she tried to return, the court heard.
After being checked over and when her flat was considered to be safe, Atkins was allowed back into the building but next-door neighbour David Chambers called emergency services 40 minutes later when his son was woken up by her fire alarm.
When he looked into the property, he saw the orange glow of flames in the building, smoke pouring from a window and could make out Atkins walking around the flat.
Sentencing Atkins to three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, Judge Ashurst praised emergency services and specifically Mr Wilkinson for putting himself in “considerable danger” to save her.
Judge Stephen Ashurst told Atkins: “Cases of arson raise understandable concerns for the public. The consequences when fires get out of control can be catastrophic.
“The fact that you survived those events is down to the actions of the paramedics in the city and the emergency services who acted very responsibily and bravely to prevent you from potentially very serious injury and preventing the fires from spreading.
“You can imagine the alarm of your neighbours next door when they saw further smoke emerging from your property and emergency services having to come again.
“Arson in a property where there is an adjoining property and which puts emergency services in danger calls for a considerable sentence.”
He added: “Mr Wilkinson deserves special praise for persistence in removing [Atkins] from the property in a situation where she could not remove herself.”
In a statement given to the court, Mr Wilkinson said he found her lying at the threshold of the property and after going to her aid, then had to physically prevent her from going back in.
In defence, Taryn Turner said Atkins had a history of mental health problems, drinking to excess and had been going through a depressive episode at the time of the incident. She has suffered “tragic difficulties” in her life, she said.
Judge Ashurst said he hoped Atkins, who has been in custody since May, would use her time in custody to address her problems with drinking.
Speaking after the court hearing, Mr Wilkinson, 48, of Haxby, said about the rescue: “I have come across similar situations like this before, it’s by the by and goes with the job,” but he added, “It’s nice to be recognised for the work you are doing.”
David Smith of York Mind said: “If emergency services believe somebody could cause damage to themselves or others they can be detained” but, he said, “It can be very difficult to tell.”