Kesgrave: Plight of a troubled arsonist who has to remain in prison

KESGRAVE: A troubled 52-year-old woman with nowhere to go must remain in jail despite already spending three months in custody.

Beverley Manning’s case has been labelled a “scandal” by national homeless charity Crisis.

At what was to be Manning’s Ipswich Crown Court sentencing for arson on Friday, Judge John Devaux said he felt he had no option but to return her to custody for at least another seven days.

This was as he believed it would be irresponsible for him to release Manning without knowing she had somewhere to stay.

He had said he was considering giving Manning a two-year suspended prison sentence after she admitted setting light to her rented home in Grantchester Place, Kesgrave, shortly before she was due to be evicted.

However, a member of the probation service told the court Manning’s only hope of shelter was emergency accommodation where there were only two beds available. If Manning was to be the third person to turn up, she would not be given a bed for the night, the court heard.

Several agencies were contacted before the hearing, but none could find accommodation for her.

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Stephen Dyble, for Manning, said: “It’s a very difficult situation. It seems wrong in principle. It’s simply frustrating because there is nowhere for her to go. She literally has nothing in the world.”

Judge Devaux said: “The courts do not want to be seen just pushing people out into the world when there’s no place for them.

Addressing Manning, he added: “It would be irresponsible of the court simply to let you go. We don’t know what would happen to you.”

The court heard that Manning was drunk when she set light to a boiler cupboard in her rented semi-detached bungalow early on New Year’s Eve. The blaze spread through the hall and kitchen.

Manning, who was said to be estranged from her family, had left a note suggesting she was going to commit suicide.

She is due to return to court for sentencing next week.

Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “This case is a sad indictment against the state of the homelessness safety net in 21st Century Britain.

“That a woman who should be walking free from prison must be put back behind bars as there is literally no other form of shelter available to her is a scandal.”

n What do you think? E-mail eveningstarletters@evening or write to Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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