Restaurateur tried to set fire to Portishead lido after being evicted
A WOMAN who tried to burn down the restaurant she used to run in Portishead wept in court as she was spared jail.
Deborah Griffith, 43, smashed a window at the Lockhouse Lounge and threw a diesel can inside during the middle of the night.
She initially denied knowledge of the attack but was caught when police discovered her fingerprint on a window at the venue.
Griffith was given a 12-month community order and told to complete 80 hours of unpaid work after admitting attempted arson when she appeared at North Somerset Magistrates' Court.
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The court heard that at 3.45am on April 17, the alarm went off at the restaurant at Portishead open- air pool and a trustee of the pool arrived to find a smashed window and an empty diesel can inside.
Shortly afterwards, Griffith arrived at the restaurant and said she had heard that the alarm had gone off at the premises.
Police were called to the scene, where they found CCTV footage of the attack and a fingerprint belonging to Griffith on a window.
During her police interview, Griffith said she had used a stone to smash the window and had gone to the boot of her car, where she found a diesel can. She told officers she inserted some paper into the can and tried to light it, the court heard.
Griffith said it had been a spur of the moment act to get back at the pool's trust after her lease at the restaurant was terminated at the end of March.
She told police she hadn't intended to burn the property down.
Gareth Neads, mitigating, said: "Miss Griffith is extremely remorseful and has been in tears, both this morning and in her interview.
"She accepts that she was extremely reckless, but says that it was irrational and totally out of character.
"She accepts what she did, but there was damage done to the window and nothing else.
"There is a story which leads up to this."
Mr Neads told magistrates that Griffith and her partner had been running the Lockhouse Lounge, alongside another business in the town. He said: "They were awarded a contract tenancy for five years, which allowed them to upgrade the facilities.
It was their plan to carry this out in year three or four of the agreement, but they found pressure to do it in their first year and were promised on the back of that a full lease.
"They spent £110,000 on upgrading the facilities including disabled toilets and new flooring.
"But this full lease did not happen and there are now civil proceedings ongoing connected to this business.
"There are issues with an electricity bill, with my client and her partner being asked for £5,000, which they queried.
"Miss Griffith's partner was so concerned at the amount that he rang the electricity company, and as a result of that conversation offered the trust around £3,000."
The court heard how the pool trust rejected the offer and cut off the electricity to the Lockhouse Lounge, stopping their business from operating.
Mr Neads said: "Essentially Miss Griffith's life has fallen apart since then.
"This was something that happened in the heat of the moment, a one-off."
Sentencing Griffith to a community order, chairman of the magistrates' bench Trevor Morgan, said: "From what we have heard surrounding the situation and your guilty plea, we have ruled out custody.
"We therefore impose a 12-month community order in which you must complete 80 hours unpaid work."
She was also ordered to pay £175 in compensation for the damage to the window and court costs of £85.