Tallaght woman pushed flaming paper through letterbox

By Brion Hoban

A woman who put a flaming piece of paper through a letterbox due to a dispute about bins has received a partly suspended sentence.

The court heard Gillian Philip (36) was recognised by children in the house who managed to quench the fire with water. The hall carpet was scorched, but the children were not injured.

Criminal Courts of Justice

Philip, formerly of Mac Uilliam Green, Tallaght, pleaded guilty at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to damaging her neighbour’s property with fire on October 21, 2015. She has been in custody since January 2017. She will reside with her father in Co Cork after her release.

Judge Karen O’Connor said it was a reckless act and noted that one cannot control what might occur in an arson attack.

Judge O’Connor noted Philip has limited cognitive function and had “a somewhat tragic life.”

She took into account Philip’s early guilty pleas, the fact she had provided a letter of remorse and that she had been using her time in custody in a positive way. Judge O’Connor imposed a two-and-a-half-year sentence and suspended the balance from today’s date on strict conditions.

Garda Robert Whitty told Noel Devitt BL, prosecuting, that he responded to reports of a house fire in Fortunestown, Tallaght, at 8pm that evening.

He later interviewed two children living in the house in question. One of the children witnessed Philip pushing a piece of flaming laminated paper through the house’s letterbox.

Garda Whitty said on the day in question the child and her sister had been in the house of their mother’s friend. They returned to their home at around 6pm and went upstairs to get some clothes.

One of the girls heard a voice shouting “fire, fire” and also calling her mother’s name. The child recognised the voice as that of Gillian Philip.

The child told her sister to be quiet, expecting Philip to leave. She witnessed the paper coming through the letterbox and recognised Philip through the door’s window.

She and her sister were able to quench the fire with water, though the carpet in their hall was scorched.

The girl discovered the piece of laminated paper that had been used to start the fire. Philip called on the child to give her the paper, but she refused and gave it to the gardai when they arrived.

Garda Whitty arrested Philip that evening. She initially denied her involvement in the incident, but soon admitted to pushing the flaming piece of paper through the letterbox.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, said a dispute over bins motivated Philip. The dispute revolved around one person’s rubbish being put into another person’s bin.

Mr Gillane said Philip had “limited cognitive function” and that she was “prone to paranoia.” Philip has a history of alcohol and drug abuse.

He argued that Philip had not intended to cause harm to the residents of the house and that the damage to the carpet was minor.

Philip has five children. She has three previous convictions for theft, public intoxication and failing to appear. These convictions occurred after the incident in this case.

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