A CARE worker who carried out three arson attacks on neighbours has had her life sentence overturned on appeal.
Jean Hinchliffe, 57, of Thornhill Bridge Lane, Brighouse, used paraffin and burning paper to set fire to three of her neighbours' front doorways in the apparently motiveless attacks in 2004.
Hinchliffe was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court on May 20 last year after being convicted of two counts of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered and one of arson.
Yesterday the sentence was overturned and replaced by a five-year jail term, at London's Appeal Court.
Mr Justice Davis, sitting with Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Forbes, said two of the unexplained fire attacks had been on elderly neighbours.
Hinchliffe had been caught running from the scene of one blaze and returned shamefacedly to help put it out when the householder yelled at her.
On another occasion, she started a fire and then called the fire brigade herself before much damage could be done. After her arrest, a psychiatric report was carried out, which concluded that Hinchliffe might be concealing a serious drink problem, compounded by depression.
Hinchliffe still denies that it was she who started any of the fires, despite being spotted, and being found by the police smelling of paraffin and in possession of screwed up balls of paper shortly after one of the fires had been put out.
"The damage to property was minor and no long term or serious damage to any person was involved," Mr Justice Davis told the court.
"This is a very perplexing and difficult case, where a lady with no previous criminal history of any kind has engaged in a series of arson incidents against houses in her street and still denies responsibility for the offences.
"There is no explanation for her behaviour," the judge added.
But Mr Justice Davis agreed to quash the life sentence saying that there was no real evidence that she posed a risk of causing serious harm to the public in future.
"We cannot agree that the offences were minor," the judge concluded, but neverthless allowed Hinchliffe's appeal.