Woman who set herself on fire after failing driving test walks free from court
A WOMAN who set herself on fire in an attempted suicide bid after failing her driving test for the fourth time has been shown mercy by a judge.
Yamkala Sapkota, 30, was allowed to walk from court, and Lord Bannatyne told her it was an unusual course for him to take.
However, he said he believed it was “highly unlikely” the Nepalese mother-of-three would ever offend again, and that she had never intended to harm anyone but herself.
Sapkota’s lawyer said she had been “out of her mind” when she doused herself in white spirit and set it alight. She suffered severe burns to 12 per cent of her body.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Sapkota, from Leith, had taken 90 driving lessons in the hope of securing a licence, and that the cost had put extreme pressure on her family’s finances. Her husband worked as a chef and earned very little.
She did not tell her husband in advance she was taking her fourth test on 28 June last year, and revealed to him she had failed again when she returned home. They argued.
The advocate-depute, Stephen O’Rourke, said: “Her husband told her to ‘die if you want’. She was very upset by this and took herself through to the bedroom where she poured white spirit on herself and set herself alight.
“The immediate motivator was the fact she had failed her driving test for the fourth time after taking 90 lessons. She left a suicide note in Nepalese which stated that she no longer wished to live.”
A neighbour called 999 and police were first to arrive. An officer forced open the door to the flat but was driven back by the heat of the fire.
Sapkota was rescued by firefighters, who found her semi-conscious. Her face, arms and back were badly burned. Paramedics gave her morphine and oxygen before taking her to hospital. The flat was damaged and others in the block had been put in danger, it was claimed.
She admitted a charge of culpable and reckless fire-raising.
Defence counsel Sarah Livingstone said Sapkota was a first offender who came from a decent family and described herself as being “out of her mind” at the time of the offence.
The author of a background report had no concerns about any risk of Sapkota reoffending.
“In her state of mind, she was trying to harm herself and no-one else,” said Ms Livingstone.
She added that Sapkota had already been punished, by being separated from her family while the case was pending, and by the “horrendous” scarring to her body after repeated skin grafts.
“The damage to her back is like a volcano and she has to wear a particular suit to keep pressure on it… It is the view of doctors that she will be permanently scarred. The shame she has also brought on herself
cannot be underestimated,” said Ms Livingstone.
Lord Bannatyne told Sapkota that he took note of the fact that the only person she had intended to harm was herself.
“You had no understanding of the effect of what you did might have. You have no record of previous offending and there is a very positive [background] report. I believe it is highly unlikely you will ever offend again,” said the judge.
“I have decided to take the unusual course in the High Court of deferring sentence for a year for you to be of good behaviour.”
Lord Bannatyne said that he expected to admonish Sapkota in 12 months’ time if she had demonstrated to him the offence had been wholly out of character. But if she got into any further trouble, he would “deal with the matter in a different fashion”.
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