Binge-drinking mum started fire with six-year-old in the house

Melanie Bates was handed a 12-month jail term.
Melanie Bates was handed a 12-month jail term.

A drunk Colne mum who was asleep when a fire started whilst her little girl was at home - for the second time - has been locked up.

Melanie Bates is now starting a 12-month jail term after the latest incident, which put the six-year-old's life at risk. The terrified child had been choking on black, acrid smoke and trying to escape from an upstairs window after Bates set the microwave alight reheating food at midnight and then "crashed out," a court heard.

The youngster was saved by a neighbour, who had seen her standing on the window sill, dashed to the house, wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her to safety. Her 29-year-old mother, who was oblivious to what was happening and to her child's suffering, just wanted to go back to sleep, but was also taken from the property by neighbours, Burnley magistrates were earlier told.

The court had heard how Bates had done a similar thing just over a year before after an earlier "binge-drinking" session. On that occasion, in April 2016, the little girl had phoned 999 in panic, saying she was unable to wake her mother. Emergency services had again found the house full of smoke. The defendant was later given six weeks in custody, suspended for a year.

Bates, of Basil Street, had earlier admitted child neglect after the most recent crime. She was sent to prison on Monday at Burnley Crown Court by Judge Beverley Lunt.

Prosecutor Mrs Alex Mann had earlier told the lower court that around midnight the neighbour was awoken by knocking, looked out of her bedroom window and saw a man knocking at the house across the road. She thought someone might be locked out and went back to bed. The neighbour then heard a fire or smoke alarm and again looked outside.

She saw the house across was filled with thick, black smoke and the six-year-old standing on the window sill in the front upstairs bedroom. Mrs Mann continued: "The neighbour says she looked very frightened. She was trying to open the window, but couldn't reach. The neighbour got dressed and ran across the road."

Mrs Mann said the neighbour got no answer, managed to get in through the unlocked door, which had things piled behind it, and made her way to the kitchen. She saw the man who had been knocking on the door - another neighbour - removing the microwave. The units were all burned as there was "smoke everywhere."

The prosecutor said the woman rushed upstairs to the front bedroom and found the girl still standing on the window still. Bates was "crashed out on the bed, extremely drunk." The neighbour wrapped the youngster in a blanket and took her out to the back yard, the quickest way to get to fresh air.

Mrs Mann had continued: "She says the house was full of black, acrid smoke. She went back in to get the mother, who couldn't see why she had to get up and wanted to go back to sleep. She was so drunk, she couldn't even tell her her name. This was the first time they had met."

The prosecutor had said the neighbour told police the defendant was quite clearly not capable of looking after herself, never mind her daughter. As the child was only wrapped in a blanket, the neighbour took her into her house. She was coughing, upset for her mother and got anxious when the emergency services came.

Mrs Mann said: "The mother was brought into the ambulance and still seemed oblivious to what had happened, unconcerned about her daughter and didn't know what was going on. The girl was taken to hospital for smoke inhalation. They were kept in hospital overnight. "

The prosecutor said when the defendant was questioned, she was very frank, was obviously upset about what had happened and conceded something similar with a fire had happened before, but it didn't take hold.

Mrs Mann went on: "She accepted she was drinking continuously through the night. She knew there was something wrong with the microwave and whilst drunk took the decision to reheat some food, probably not in the right sort of container to put in the microwave."

Mr Keith Rennison, earlier defending Bates, said she was in regular contact with her daughter, who was now with a relative.

The solicitor told the hearing: "She is not alcohol-dependent, but she accepts that when she drinks, it tends to be a binge. She's very thankful that nothing more serious occurred."