HOLDEN BURNS: Convicted of arson Dawn Griffin leaves court with her husband whose car she destroyed without his knowledge.
HOLDEN BURNS: Convicted of arson Dawn Griffin leaves court with her husband whose car she destroyed without his knowledge. Ross Irby

Woman free despite torching prized Mark Skaife Commodore

AN IPSWICH court has heard how a woman was so desperate to pay her gambling debts she resorted to torching her husband's prized Holden Commodore.

Her husband was apparently oblivious to his wife's $35,000 debt and had no idea of her destructive intent.

A tearful Dawn Michelle Griffin (also known as Dawn Packer), 49, from Springfield, pleaded guilty in Ipswich District Court to committing arson at Redbank Plains on August 26, 2018; and attempting insurance fraud later the same day.

Griffin narrowly escaped serving jail time for the offences.

The court heard her husband, who works 70 hour weeks away from home, had lost the $26,000 car insurance for the limited edition Mark Skaife Commodore.

Crown prosecutor Jessica Beckman said Griffin had no criminal history.

Police were falsely told the vehicle had been stolen the night before, while Griffin filed an insurance claim later the same day.

When police investigated the matter further, she withdrew the claim, admitting to what had taken place.

"She organised someone to drive the car. A full petrol container was put behind the front seat. The car was insured for $26,000," Ms Beckman said.

The court heard the car was set alight next to long grass after being taken (by an unnamed person) down a narrow gravel road.

Defence barrister Clare O'Connor asked that the sentence be suspended given Griffin's level of assistance to police.

At the time, her relationship with her husband was strained, with him working 70 hours a week, "and no doubt wondering where the money was going".

"She hid the seriousness of her gambling from him as she was ashamed," Ms O'Connor said.

"He continues to support her and together they have paid down her debt. She has insight into her gambling and is receiving counselling."

Judge Deborah Richards said it was very lucky the arson didn't lead to a grass fire.

She said Griffin's offence would have placed her husband under police suspicion.

"The fact that he stays with you says a lot about his good character and his obvious care for you," Judge Richards said.

Taking into account that she had no criminal history, Judge Richards said it would serve no purpose to send her to jail.

Sentenced to a two and half year jail term for the arson, and three months for the attempted fraud, Griffin was released to immediate parole. She left the court room sobbing.