A JUDGE at Chester Crown Court said he was "appalled" that an 82-year-old woman who has spent more than six months in prison is still awaiting her sentence.

Maureen Walsh had been found guilty by a jury in a finding of fact trial in July this year of twice trying to set fire to her own bungalow in William Johnson Gardens, Ellesmere Port, on November 27, 2018.

The court heard Walsh had blamed the attempted arson on her carers, but the fire service said it was only the "quick actions of the carers" that prevented a full fire at the semi-detached property, where in the neighbouring home lived a woman in her 90s.

Walsh was not present for the finding of fact trial, having been ruled unfit to stand trial or enter a plea, and the case had been adjourned for a psychiatric report and a pre-sentence report to determine her sentence.

Given Walsh's health, the three options were for a hospital order, a supervision order of up to two years, or a conditional discharge.

But at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday, October 22, prosecutor Peter Hussey said while a psychiatric report had ruled out a hospital order, not enough information had been gathered for the court to satisfactorily set out the terms of a supervision order.

As a result, the sentencing would have to be adjourned for another month.

The court heard Walsh had been in custody at HMP Styal since early March.

Recorder Stephen Bedford said: "We can't leave her in Styal but she needs a roof over her head.

"You do realise, there was mention on the radio in the past 24 hours about the number of people who are in prison who should not be in prison, and this lady is one of them.

"This demonstrates the inadequacies of the system as it is. There must be a better way.

"As soon as it was clear she was unfit to stand trial, moves should have been made swiftly.

"It feels like nobody is talking to each other. Probation should have been told there are limited options here.

"This lady has been failed by the system and I am appalled. I am invited to ask the Recorder of Chester to look at this; this is a waste of public money.

"I find it very distressing, personally. She may well be looked after there but it has been known for a long time she is not going to be staying in Styal.

"I don't think I have any choice but to adjourn for a month or so."

Defending, Dafydd Roberts said: "I respectfully agree with everything that has been said.

"I had a conference with Maureen Walsh. She tells me, if her wish was granted, she would stay where she is in prison. That is not an option for her.

"There is some solace in she is happy where she is. She is not a well lady."

The judge replied: "She is being well looked after, there is no doubt. I suspect something has gone wrong with the system rather than the system operators."

The case was adjourned until November 19, to be heard at Chester Crown Court, for a further report to be obtained.

Recorder Bedford told Walsh: "I am sorry we can't finish this here today. Probation services have got to come up with a report on where you should move to and the sort of care package you should have, and who should be your supervisor. That needs to be done quickly.

"I know you are happy and and well looked after were you are but really you should not be in prison. There needs to be somewhere where you will be looked after outside of prison."