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Troubled Cawston woman gets probation for setting fire to her own residence

A 39 year old Cawston woman suffering from depression and addiction issues was given a probationary term on two arson charges in order for her to get treatment in Penticton court today, Aug. 22, 2016.
August 22, 2016 - 5:30 PM

PENTICTON - A Cawston woman was sentenced to three years probation for arson so she can seek counselling for addiction and depression.

Edith Marlene Johnson appeared in Penticton court Monday morning, Aug. 22, entering guilty pleas for arson in relation to inhabited property and arson damaging property.

Crown Prosecutor John Swanson explained the charges, which stemmed from an incident March 25, 2015, in which Edith set fire to the Cawston house she was living in.

Court heard police received a call of a structure fire on Chopaka Road. As they responded to the call they were told the fire had been extinguished.

Neighbouring residents put the fire out, but police arrived to find the two storey residence still had smoke emanating from its second floor windows.

Police found Johnson in one of the rooms where she had blocked the entrance and police had to force the door open to get to her.

She was in emotional distress, telling police she started the fire because she wanted to die.

Police arrested the woman and turned her over to health authorities for mental assessment.

Swanson said Crown was finding it difficult to come up with a sentencing formula without further psychiatric evidence of Johnson’s state of mind.

Defence lawyer Robert Maxwell said his 39-year-old client was the single mother of four children, two of whom had already died, one from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the other a 17-year-old who drowned while in the care of foster parents.

He said Johnson lived with her common law partner on a disability pension and had been seeing mental health therapists for 20 years trying to deal with depression and a lengthy alcohol addiction.

He asked for a three year probationary sentence in order to allow Johnson to seek and get treatment for her issues, noting today would have been her 17-year-old son's birthday.

Judge Gale Sinclair noted Johnson’s “heavy burden,” and agreed to a suspended sentence and three-year probation to give her a chance to get treated.

“We are going to get her some heavy duty counselling,” he said.


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