Lover torches home following domestic

Judith Browes
Judith Browes

A JUDGE has criticised police who repeatedly cautioned an arsonist over domestic disputes before she torched her home during a row with her girlfriend.

Dog groomer Judith Browes caused more than £14,000 worth of damage to the rented property in Auckley and then punched and bit the policewoman who arrested her.

After the case at Doncaster Crown Court the judge demanded a report into the previous history of her case and why she was given three separate cautions for affray and assault between 2008 and this year.

Browes, 52, who was an alcoholic at the time, has since been reconciled with her partner, Deborah Mackay. But the couple will not be living together again for some time after she was jailed for 27 months.

She pleaded guilty to reckless arson at their home in Willow Crescent on July 21 this year.

During the case Judge Peter Kelson, QC, raised concerns why she had not been prosecuted earlier.

Judge Kelson demanded a written explanation from the police about their cautions policy and if it was “wise and proper” in this case.

“The public are waking up to the perils of the cautioning system,” he said. “We end up here with the lives of neighbours being endangered. It’s astonishing someone didn’t take this lady through the court system.”

Prosecutor Brian Outhwaite said Browes, who had been drinking in her car after returning from work, had a row with Mrs Mackay - whom she had met on the internet - because she was planning to move down south.

Browes laughed as she picked a lighter and ignited her bedroom curtains before hiding under the covers. She refused to leave the house so Mrs Mackay got her dog out and raised the alarm.

Shortly after Browes emerged from the house coughing and ran off but when a police officer caught her she punched her in the face. She later bit the same officer on the hand at the police station.

Dermot Hughes, mitigating, said she had struggled with her relationships, having got out of a doomed marriage, but she had become very fond of Mrs Mackay.

Mr Hughes said if police had got more involved in previous disputes she may not have ended up in court for arson. He added nobody was injured in the fire.

Cautions are usually administered when an offender has not previously or within the last two years been charged, received a caution or been reprimanded.

After the case South Yorkshire Police said the force followed national guidance regarding cautions.