French woman jailed for starting ‘revenge fire’ in neighbour's garden

The judge said that the woman's behaviour was close to pyromania and put families and young children in great danger

A 55-year-old French woman has been given a two-year prison sentence – one suspended with probation – for starting a fire in her neighbour’s garden that led to 2,000 square metres of brushwood burning in the department of Gard (Occitanie) at the end of July.

The woman, a mother of two, said she started the fire as revenge after her neighbour complained about noise from a party she was hosting.

She said she lit the fire with a lighter on the night of July 29.

“Honestly, I had had a bit to drink,” she told the judge at the court in Nîmes.

“I hardly ever drink, I think that's [the reason I did it].”

As well as the prison sentence, she was ordered to pay €17,000 in damages to civil parties. She was not given a detention order (mandat de dépôt) meaning she was not held in custody after the court hearing and will be summoned to face her sentence at a later date.

Read more: 26 people questioned by French police over starting fires this summer

‘I am ashamed of what I did’

The woman has two daughters, aged 26 and 14, as well as one grandson, aged 10. She has no prior convictions or criminal record.

Tensions with her neighbour had been increasing for several months due to parties she organised at her home.

"I want to make up for my stupidity", "I am ashamed of what I did", repeated the defendant, who was ordered to pay more than 17,000 euros to the civil parties.

The judge said that the woman’s behaviour was “close to pyromania”.

“She put several families with small children in great danger,” the judge said.

“It is not a question of stupidity…here we are talking about an offence that carries a prison sentence of 10 years.

“There are fires all over France, particularly in the Gard. The fire brigade has been sent out on multiple occasions and you decide to light a fire?”

The Gard fire brigade reacted to the sentencing, saying, “this type of behaviour…exposes the fire brigade to significant risks and uses resources that could be vital elsewhere”.

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