Northern Ireland

Carryduff fire: Probation for woman who admitted manslaughter of neighbour

The full extent of the house fire in Carryduff
Image caption The fire began in a neighbour's garage, before spreading to oil tanks and setting the pensioner's home alight

A County Down woman who started a fire which led to the death of her elderly neighbour at his home in Carryduff, County Down, has been spared prison.

Karen Hasson, 59, of Thorndale Park, has been given a combined probation and community service order.

She had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter.

Samuel Carson, 91, died after a fire spread from Hasson's garage to his bungalow in September 2014.

Mr Carson's family said they were disappointed with the sentence, but "glad that this now brings closure to the terrible circumstances" of his death.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard that it was evident from an investigation by fire crews at the scene that Mr Carson "had tried to escape" from his ground floor bedroom, before he was "overcome by smoke".

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Samuel Carson, 91, died after the fire spread to his home in Carryduff

Judge Piers Grant told Hasson he accepted that she started the fire without contemplating that it would result in the death of an extremely decent individual.

He also said he was satisfied that Hasson was a seriously troubled individual at the time the offences occurred.

The court heard that the defendant had been suffering from emotional and psychiatric problems for some time.

Hasson started the fire in the garage of the marital home from a lit cigarette on 1 September, 2014, following a row with her husband.

Image caption Karen Hasson (third from right) leaving Downpatrick Crown Court

The judge described the two-year probation order with 100 hours of community service as "a merciful sentence".

He told the defendant: "I want to make it clear to you that you will not get a second chance."

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Sgt Ian Davis, from the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch, said: "The reckless act carried out by the defendant led to the needless death of a much loved father, grandfather and great grandfather.

"Police carried out a rigorous investigation and, in partnership with the PPS, gathered the evidence required to bring about this defendant's guilty plea.

"This was a tragic case and the thoughts of the investigation team are very much with Mr Carson's family today."

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