Arson boy is locked up

PUBLISHED: 11:40 26 September 2006 | UPDATED: 10:54 06 May 2010

The aftermath of the arson attack at United Paper Products where a worker suffered from smoke inhalation

The aftermath of the arson attack at United Paper Products where a worker suffered from smoke inhalation

A TEENAGE arsonist who could have killed an elderly woman and a workman in separate fires has been looked up for the protection of the public. The boy, who was 14 at the time, admitted starting 16 fires altogether last summer in and around Hitchin, a cour

A TEENAGE arsonist who could have killed an elderly woman and a workman in separate fires has been looked up for the protection of the public.

The boy, who was 14 at the time, admitted starting 16 fires altogether last summer in and around Hitchin, a court heard.

They were mostly in rubbish bins, but on two occasions they spread to occupied properties, said prosecutor Sarah Porter.

In the early hours of August 27 a fire spread to United Paper Products in Hitchin causing £100,000 damage. A workman there was taken to hospital suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, the court was told.

Then on September 4 at 1am a bin fire he started spread to the home of an 85-year-old woman.

Fortunately her daughter smelled smoke and got them out of the house, but the kitchen roof collapsed and £40,000 damage was caused.

The youth, now aged 15, pleaded guilty to two charges of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, and two of simple arson with 12 similar offences taken into consideration.

Judge Richard Foster told him: "I cannot stress too highly the seriousness of these offences and I am driven to the inevitable conclusion that you present a significant risk to the public."

He said two reports suggested he may be a pathological fire starter but he needed further psychiatric assessment.

He passed an indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public and the youth will only be released when the parole board consider it is safe enough to do so. He may apply for parole after serving a year. He will also be on licence for at least 10 years and possibly life.

Sean Sullivan, defending, said: "These offences occurred during the school holidays when he was mixing with a certain crowd. What he did was dangerous and irresponsible but he did not fully consider the consequences.

"But realisation has dawned on him since and he is deeply upset by it. For a year he has abided by a self-imposed curfew and not got into any further trouble.

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