The next-door neighbour who tried to burn down a family home four times in four months was too drunk to remember committing the crime.
Lisa Hay, 34, appeared in Wangaratta Magistrates Court on Monday to plead guilty to criminal damage by arson and reckless conduct endangering life.
Magistrate Ian Watkins sentenced her to 351 days in jail, which she has already served on remand, and a 12-month community corrections order including alcohol and mental health treatment.
The first fire was lit at the victim’s Burke Street home on April 26, 2017, while the woman and her 16 and 9-year-old sons were sleeping inside.
Hay soaked a tea towel with cooking grease and set it alight at the front of the house.
She returned with a bucket of water to help put it out.
Three more fires were lit by Hay between May and July using cardboard under the house and by splashing accelerant on the weatherboard wall.
The later fires were captured on CCTV as part of the police investigation.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Sarah Williamson said the fires caused only minor damage, but CFA fire investigators warned it could have been worse.
“The fire would have spread if the atmospheric conditions had been different and the victim and her children would have been at real risk of death,” she said.
“The accused claims (she and the victim) are friends, but disclosed to her brother that she wanted to get rid of them as neighbours.”
Barrister Martin Kozlowski said Hay “clearly has a drinking problem”.
“She doesn’t recall the offence,” he said.
“She accepts that it’s happened, she’s seen the CCTV.”
Mr Watkins said Hay deserved every day she had already spent in jail, as her response to a grudge against a neighbour was very serious.
“You had no right to do that, she had been there a long time,” he said.
“Your behaviour was totally inappropriate … It’s something the community just does not tolerate.”
Hay faces more serious charges of arson at another Burke Street home, but has pleaded not guilty and will face trial in the County Court next year.
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