AN ARSONIST suffering from deep depression has been given a 52-week suspended jail sentence after she caused damage costing most than £30,000 to her Fowey home.
Pamela Palfrey, aged 46 and now of Aberdeen Close, St Blazey, avoided an immediate jail term after pleading guilty to arson.
At Truro Crown Court on Monday Judge John Neligan gave Palfrey a 52-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, with supervision throughout.
In March Palfrey set fire to a duvet in the bedroom of her home in Pentreath Close, Fowey, in an attempt to commit suicide.
The judge said psychiatric reports clearly showed she had been considerably depressed at the time.
Told by Palfrey's defence counsel Mary McCarthy that she would continue to receive treatment and counselling, the judge replied: "She has suffered a great deal already."
Brian Fitzherbert, for the prosecution, said firefighters were dispatched to the house shortly after midnight on March 12 after Palfrey's partner Nicholas Bancroft discovered it was well alight.
"It's a very sad case," said Mr Fitzherbert.
Palfrey had been depressed for some time and 18 months previously had taken an overdose, the court heard.
Speaking after the case, Inspector Stuart Gibbons from St Austell police said arsonists such as Palfrey were rare and clearly her mental state led to her starting the fire.
"Obviously this has been reflected in the fact of the sentence by the judge," he said. "It could have been a lot more serious and thankfully there was no loss of life."
He urged people with such troubles not to suffer alone.
"This case sends out a clear message that they really do need to try and get help," he said.
Outlook South West runs NHS-funded 'talking therapy' services across the county.
Spokesman Adam McPherson said helping people overcome depression was "a global focus". A number of issues could trigger depression but most new research seemed to find a link between those diagnosed with depression and the state of the economy.
"These days, depression and anxiety is in the public spotlight and thankfully the stigma has begun to lift," he said. "Health professionals and GPs have also become better at recognising these conditions."
Outlook South West encourages people suffering with depression or anxiety to get free help and support from their doctor or make a self-referral.
For more information, contact your GP, telephone Outlook South West on 01208 871905, or go to its website at www.outlooksw.co.uk