A WOMAN who locked her partner upstairs when she started a fire in the living room following a drunken row has avoided being sent to prison.

Katie Page, who was described as argumentative and difficult when she was in drink, started in the fire in the couple's three bedroomed terraced house in Hartlepool while she was drunk.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the 33-year-old set her sofa alight when her partner went to bed and pulled the bolt across the door at the bottom of the stairs to trap him in the property.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said the mother-of five had moved to Furness Street in Hartlepool after leaving Devon for a 'fresh start'.

However, on September 23 the couple started drinking whisky and coke together and the evening descended into a row.

In the early hours of the Tuesday, Page's partner was awoken by the smell of smoke but was unable to force his way through the door at the bottom of the stairs until the defendant opened the bolt after calling the fire brigade.

Mr Hadfield said Page became increasingly agitated when the firefighters were in the house and stormed into the house and barricaded herself in the bathroom.

After they left the scene, Page started a fire in the bathroom using toilet roll and a cushion which her partner managed to extinguish before police and fire crews arrived.

Page pleaded guilty to one charge of arson being reckless as to whether it endangered life and another charge of arson.

Anthony Dunne, mitigating, said Page's enforced abstinence had resulted in her going "cold turkey" while being held on remand and urged the judge to give her a suspended sentence to prove that she had managed to "turn a corner" in her life.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said: "You were not just risking your life, you were risking his life (her partner), and you were not just risking his life you were risking the lives of your neighbours who lived in the terraced street.

"If the fire had taken hold it could have caused some significant damage to a number of people."

He sentenced Page to two concurrent sentences of two years in custody but suspended the sentence for two years. She was also given 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and ordered to carry out an alcohol rehabilitation programme for 12 months and perform 100 hours of unpaid work.