Sheffield mum left daughter and ex-partner homeless after setting fire to their house

A Sheffield woman, who left her young daughter and former partner homeless after she set fire to their house, has been jailed for over two years.
A Sheffield woman, who left her young daughter and former partner homeless after she set fire to their house, has been jailed for over two years.
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A Sheffield woman, who left her young daughter and former partner homeless after she set fire to their house, has been jailed for over two years.

Tara Cullen of Victoria Street, Sheffield City Centre was found guilty of one count of arson relating to the incident on July 12 last year, when she was sentenced to a three-year community order for the offence.

But after 33-year-old Cullen was found to have breached the order by not fulfilling a rehabilitation requirement earlier this year, she was sentenced to three years in prison for the original offence of arson at Sheffield Crown Court this morning.

Prosecuting, Ian Goldsack, told the court how Cullen previously lived at the property where the fire was started with her former partner and their daughter Leah, up until the couple separated in 2013.

Cullen had a key to the property and had slept over on a handful of occasions between when the separation began and the date of the fire on February 1, 2015, the court was told.

Mr Goldsack said: "The fire seems to have started between 6-6.45pm, when Leah had left the address with her father and his step-daughter.

"When returning, they became aware the fire alarm was sounding.

"They heard her shouting: 'I've just set your house on fire'."

Cullen later told a neighbour: 'Get the kids out, I've set the house on fire'.

The fire caused substantial damage to the interior of the house, to a value of around £9,000; and destroyed all of the occupants' belongings.

Mr Goldsack told the court that the family were also left homeless, as a result of the blaze.

He added: "They lost everything they owned, including furniture, bedding, clothing and personal items.

During last year's trial, Cullen told jurors at Sheffield Crown Court that she accidentally started the fire.

Cullen said the blaze started when a tee light candle she had lit and placed on top of a wardrobe in an upstairs bedroom accidentally fell and landed on bedding - causing it to go up in flames.

Defending Cullen, Mr Jackson, told the court that Cullen was 'quite ill' due to the 'long-standing' mental health problems she suffers from.

He said she often failed to take her medication when she was 'in the community'.

Sentencing Cullen to three years in prison, minus the 252 days the 33-year-old has already spent on remand, His Honour Robert Moore said: "Two years ago you set fire to the home of your ex-partner and daughter and made them homeless.

"It's clearly so serious that the only option is an immediate custodial sentence.

"The learned judge [from the first sentencing] was led to believe you would benefit from a community order, but that has not been the case."