File photo of fire

(Jane Sims, The London Free Press)

There’s no place like home — and for a London couple convicted of setting their own house on fire, that’s where they will be serving their jail sentence.

Jennifer Gionet, 31, and Steven Harman, 41, were each sentenced to 23 months of house arrest, with the main requirement to abide by a curfew that confines them in their home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., except for emergencies and family-related activities.

Conditional sentences are no longer by law available for recent arson convictions, but in 2011 when the couple’s east London home was on fire, house arrest was still an option on the books.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton decided that because it has taken so long for the case to wend its way to completion, and that the couple has abided by bail conditions for the entire period, that she would allow a sentence to be served in the community.

The fire at the east London home happened during the early morning hours on Nov. 20, 2011, and the couple had suggested at the time someone set fire to the property during a break-in.

But a neighbour saw Gionet in the backyard while checking his vehicles. Ten minutes later, he smelled smoke and called 911.

Combustible materials were discovered in a child’s bedroom closet. It was determined the blaze was started with gasoline.

The case had several delays and never made it to trial until February 2015. After six days of evidence, the judge who heard the case delayed his brief decision until May 2015 and followed up with written reasons in June 2015.

By the end of August, he retired and wasn’t completing any outstanding cases.

Templeton was put on the case and rejected an argument for a mistrial a year ago because the trial judge wasn’t crafting the sentence.

But in her decision she said the case had an “entirely unacceptable delay from start to finish.”

The two-year wait for sentencing since the convictions “are anomaly to how the justice system should proceed.”

The fire, she said, was dangerous and posed a risk to people and properties in the neighbourhood.

But the couple, who have two children, had positive pre-sentence reports. Templeton called them “good family people.”

House arrest was “reasonable and appropriate” in this case. The couple must also complete 18 months of probation.

jsims@postmedia.com

Source: House arrest for house arson | The London Free Press