Woman had complained about neighbours before setting her unit

An alcoholic Albury woman who seemed destined to go to jail for setting her flat on fire has been spared.

Instead, an Albury magistrate has taken the rare step of granting the woman bail on the condition she go into rehabilitation.

Cheryl Scarcella was to have been sentenced in Albury Local Court yesterday over the fire from August 6, 2017.

Defence solicitor Joe Blackshield had urged magistrate Imad Abdul-Karim to not consider a custodial sentence, given Scarcella’s issues with alcohol abuse and mental health.

That would not do anything to take her off this path, he said.

But Mr Abdul-Karim said the simple fact was that Scarcella, with her latest offending, had breached five court bonds for previous crimes.

Each one of those bonds, he said, was imposed to provide Scarcella with the supervision needed to help her change her ways, yet she was continuing to break the law unabated.

Mr Abdul-Karim said it clearly was a difficult sentencing exercise, pointing out he found it troubling that Scarcella, 45, had set fire to her own home.

Prosecutor Sergeant Erica Mulligan pointed out that had the fire got out of control “there could have been many other lives at risk”.

Mr Abdul-Karim said because Scarcella was so incapacitated on the night she lit the fire, there was no real explanation for her actions. Scarcella set fire to her door in the unit of her Thurgoona Street public housing unit, located in one of two blocks that comprise 30 units.

Scarcella contacted police on the day of the fire to complain about “issues" she had with some of her neighbours.

Not long after they left, they received a report that a fire had begun at the front door. When they got there they found a burning towel between the front door and security door of Scarcella’s flat.

Police got in through a window and found an unresponsive Scarcella in her bedroom.

Scarcella, who pleaded guilty to damage property by fire, must reappear on September 12.