Belfast Telegraph

Letterbox arsonist said she'd burn down clinic over medication dispute

The defendant, from Green Street in Carrickfergus, appeared at Belfast Crown Court where she pleaded guilty to three charges (stock photo)
The defendant, from Green Street in Carrickfergus, appeared at Belfast Crown Court where she pleaded guilty to three charges (stock photo)

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 40-year-old woman who threatened to burn down Carrick Health Centre in front of police was yesterday made the subject of an 18-month probation order.

After she was arrested, a police interview with Joanne Robinson had to be aborted because she "wailed throughout and was not able to answer questions".

The defendant, from Green Street in Carrickfergus, appeared at Belfast Crown Court where she pleaded guilty to three charges.

She admitted threatening to damage the health centre on February 3, causing criminal damage to a police vehicle and damaging by arson a letterbox belonging to a male she knew.

This male, the court heard, became aware of the sound of scrunching paper at the front of his property. When he went to his front door, he saw smouldering papers coming through his letterbox.

When he opened the door, he saw Robinson, who he knew and had fallen out with, and the pair exchanged words. She said she was going to cause damage to her GP's surgery because she had not been given the right amount of prescription medication.

Police were called and officers saw Robinson and the male at the health centre. Police attempted to speak to Robinson, who walked away from them and shouted that she was going to burn the health centre.

At this point, she held a lighter up and was arrested. As they arrived at the police custody suite, Robinson was informed she was not allowed to smoke within the complex, which prompted her to grab a car door handle with such force that she broke it off.

Police tried to interview Robinson the following day, but this was aborted. She later told the probation staff that due to financial pressures she wrongly believed the man she targeted was in a position to influence her entitlement to benefits.

She said she went to his house with a letter regarding her benefits. When he failed to answer, she burned the letter and put the smouldering paper through his door to gain his attention.

Defence barrister Sean O'Hare said that in February his client was suffering from mental health issues but has since accepted her behaviour was "unacceptable".

The barrister said the targeted man was able to manage the incident with the burning letter and added that Robinson had used her time on remand wisely to address her fragile mental state.

After listening to submissions from the Crown and defence, Judge Philip Gilpin made Robinson the subject of an 18-month probation order and also put in place a two-year restraining order banning her from contacting the targeted man.

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