Woman who burnt down house appeals sentence

Last updated 05:00 06/11/2012

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A woman sentenced to two years and two months' jail for burning down her state house has appealed against the sentence.

Patsy Michelle McCormack, 29, was sentenced in June for burning down the house, in Lauder Place in Invercargill, in April.

In July, while on bail charged with arson, she committed an assault on a Child, Youth and Family worker, for which she was also sentenced.

Justice Miller heard the appeal against sentence in the High Court at Invercargill yesterday.

McCormack's lawyer Hugo Young said the appeal was based on the disparity between the treatment of McCormack and her co-offender in the arson, her on-off partner. The partner was given a shorter sentence despite facing the same charge as McCormack, Mr Young said.

"There was no justification for treating them differently."

Mr Young contended the police could not prove which of them had lit the most damaging fire, started in a linen cupboard. Three fires were lit in all. Justice Miller said the summary of facts presented by the Crown suggested McCormack was the instigator of the arson.

"She decided on this cunning plan to burn the house down," he said. "She is the principal offender, in any view of it."

Mr Young said McCormack was highly intoxicated at the time, while the man had said he was sober. A pre-sentence report had found McCormack had a medium chance of reoffencing, while the man had a medium-to-high risk, Mr Young said.

The sentencing judge's comments in his judgment suggested McCormack had been treated punitively, while the other man had an easier ride, Mr Young said.

Crown prosecutor Riki Donnelly said the disparity had been fair and was not unjustified. "The judge proceeded on the basis she was more culpable. She started the discussion about the fire, lit the first fire . . . four months cannot be an unjustified disparity given she was the instigator."

Justice Miller reserved his decision.

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- The Southland Times

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