Teenage arsonist jailed for 18 months

| 24/04/2013

(CNS): A woman who was only 19 when she set her husband’s bed on fire with the help of rum and toilet paper was jailed for 18 months on Tuesday after receiving a three year prison sentence for arson with half of it suspended. Shaneeke Wellington admitted starting the fire last June following an argument with her husband, which caused some $85,000 worth of damage to the property that belonged to her husband’s family. Justice Charles Quin, who heard the case, described the incident as a very serious offence for which she had not shown any real remorse and which attracted an immediate custodial sentence.

Fortunately, there was no one else in the room when Wellington left the burning bed in Oakmill Street, George Town, in the early hours of 17 June last year and the fire was eventually extinguished by the Cayman Islands Fire Service. Wellington pleaded guilty to arson a few months after she was charged, and when the police arrived at her house on the morning of the fire and asked if she was responsible, she told them, “Yes, I burn the house and I wish he were f*#!ing there.”

During the sentencing hearing it was revealed that just before the fire, Wellington and her husband, the complainant, were involved in an argument after they had been out drinking as Wellington believed he was cheating on her. The couple, who were living separately in their respective family homes, were said to have been engaged in a physical dispute at a park in the Windsor Park area, where they had gone to meet friends. Her husband, who was ten years older than her, had thrown the teenager to the ground. Angry about the cheating and the violence, Wellington set off to her husband’s bedroom at his family’s house, where she proceeded to set the fire.

Although no one was hurt, the crown submitted that the fire could have seriously endangered life and the defendant had been extremely reckless. In her defence, Wellington’s attorney said that the defendant had been in an abusive relationship with the complainant, who was much older than her, and had asked for the judge to consider the Social Enquiry Report (SIR) which recommended a probation order. 

However, the judge found that in this case Wellington had time to consider her actions and the court had to impose a sentence that reflected the gravity of the offence and the need to protect others. He noted the comments in the SIR that indicated the defendant had laughed when she told the social worker that, after setting the fire, she sent her husband a message saying, “I hope you like how I decorated your house.” He also noted her admission of guilt to the police and further comments in which she told officers that she did not care about setting the fire and she did it so he would not have anywhere to sleep. The judge remarked that it did not appear that the defendant had shown any remorse or horror at what she had done.

Wellington had admitted being aware that other people could have been in the building adjoining the room but had done nothing to warn them about the danger, which caused the judge concern. The SIR also noted that Wellington did not seem to “grasp the gravity” of the offence she had committed.

The probation officers reported that Wellington’s relationship with the complainant was plagued with interpersonal differences, issues of infidelity, lack of trust, poor communication, verbal and physical abuse from the start. The pastor that married the couple also noted that three months into the marriage the defendant had come to his office looking for the marriage papers and then had proceeded to tear them up.

The judge said that while the defendant admitted her guilt immediately, she had shown little if any remorse, but he still gave her a full discount on what would have been a four a half year sentence based on the guidelines and case law, arriving at a three year prison term.

As a result of her age at the time of the offence and the fact that she had no previous convictions or any predilection or fascination for starting fires, the judge suspended the second half of her sentence. Justice Quin added, however, that Wellington’s temper was cause for concern, which he said had to be addressed while she was in custody. Once released from prison, the judge ordered that Wellington participate in the anger management group at the Department of Counselling and the Interpersonal Relationship Enhancement Awareness programme and perform 60 hours of community service.

“Ms Wellington, you have committed a very serious offence,” Justice Quin told the young woman, who was tearful once the custodial sentence was pronounced. “You will have time to consider the consequences of your actions. This court hopes that during the 18 months you will serve in custody you will avail yourself of all the programmes and facilities at your disposal and focus on educational pursuits.”

He told the defendant that she would still be on a term of imprisonment when she was released after the first 18 months, even though it was suspended and she would not be in custody. “During those 18 months should you commit any further criminal offence you will be liable to an immediate further term of imprisonment of 18 months,” the judge warned.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    All I know is if the relationship was abusive and that was her defence, why did she go back to him after she was released on bail, to the same house she burned? I am saying this because I know this couple personally, not by hear say! I say she should have done the whole 3 years. This article did not mention that there were at least 6 people sleeping in the house (including 1 senior citizen over 75 and 2 children under the age of 5). Also it did not mention that she attacked him the night of the argument and he did not hit her back but rather just pushed her away from him where she fell to the ground. (And yes there were witnesses to that). That is where she made up her mind to go and burn the house.

  2. about time says:

    about time a woman is jailed for trying to hurt a man regardless of wheather he started the argument which i am pretty sure some of you ladies are ready to defend her "oh, my god she was the victim" if the relationship was that bad she could have walked away,  he didn't drag her or demanded that she return with him.  I am pretty sure as we read along both partners were physically abusive towards one another.   who knows some women tend to have pleasure being boxed,  that is their darkest secret i have been told this so many countless times by my women friends and i have also exprience first hand just got through having an argument,  my lady jumped all over me don't worry that is not the biggest issue i loved it. 

    Reading the news she showed no remorse of her actions and she repeately continue to express that in her social inquiry.  As a man, thank you Justice Quinn for equal rights,  thank you for showing that she does not have the right to hurt anyone because she is a woman or she suspected he may be cheating on her .  please click the troll button no thumbs down here.  

    • Anonymous says:

      But a man can attack another if his sacred vessel is tapered with

      • Anonymous says:

        That is why we have laws they should apply to women and men, it's stupid beating on one another if the relationship dosen't work then find someone else. 

    • Anonymous says:

      It is notable that a caveman-like attitude and poor grammar have a high correlation.

      • burn says:

        so it's ok for a woman to lash out because she is angry, it's like what the man is saying she showed no remorse of her actions and she didn't care who was in the house when she had set it on fire.  you wouldn't like the expense of rebuilding your house, a house that she did not own. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Not necessarily only in regards to this case, but in general, I wish I could get the same bargain at Fosters, Hurleys and CUS as those criminals seem to be getting in our court cause they seem to get 50% off quite a lot!

    • Crazy !! says:

      Are you crazy? "who knows, some women tend to have pleaseure being boxed" !! Let me tell you right now – NO WOMAN gets any pleasure from being boxed. This is from ALL the women I know !!  I hope you have no children especially girl children ! This should never have been published moderator !! Stop perpetuating the "she like it" mentatlity of men. Abuse is never right – against women, children or men. I hope this author seeks help because he needs help if he can believe and can spew this rubbish.