Teenager who torched centre is locked up

PUBLISHED: 12:47 24 August 2006 | UPDATED: 10:42 06 May 2010

The community centre kitchen after the arson attack

The community centre kitchen after the arson attack

A TEENAGER who started a fire which damaged a Stevenage community centre when he was bored has been given an eight-month custodial sentence. The youth, who lived nearby, was 16 when he set light to bins outside the Hertford Road Community Centre on July 1

A TEENAGER who started a fire which damaged a Stevenage community centre when he was bored has been given an eight-month custodial sentence.

The youth, who lived nearby, was 16 when he set light to bins outside the Hertford Road Community Centre on July 18 last year.

But the blaze took hold of the building itself, causing damage to the kitchen.

The defendant, now nearly 18, pleaded guilty to an arson charge at Luton Crown Court.

Another youth who was arrested at the time pleaded not guilty and was cleared by a jury. A third youth, who was seen on CCTV footage of the incident has not been caught.

Judge Jeffrey Burke QC said on Thursday that the CCTV showed all three setting light to a tree, then disappearing while police dealt with the blaze.

That incident was not the subject of a charge. But they returned to the scene and the youth, who was the youngest of the three, set light to rubbish bins.

The fire grew and took hold of the building. After watching it for about 20 minutes he called the fire service from his mobile phone. The damage was first thought to be about £30,000, but the building was repaired for just over £7,000. However, users were inconvenienced for some time.

Adrian Amor, defending, said the youth had said he was bored, and had no idea the fire was going to be as big as it was.

He had since voluntarily attended six sessions of an arson awareness programme and has vowed never to start a fire again.

"This was a very stupid act by an immature young man who will never darken the court's doors again," said Mr Amor.

Judge Burke said: "I don't think for a moment that you intended to set the main building on fire, but it must have been obvious there was a risk it would get out of control.

"I am impressed by what you have done since, but this was a serious offence of arson and only a custodial sentence is appropriate.


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