Teenage arsonist ‘fascinated by fire’, court told

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A 15-YEAR-OLD boy, who admitted to being ‘fascinated by fire’, has escaped a custodial sentence after starting a blaze at a school.

The boy admitted committing arson in a toilet block at Thurston Community College causing nearly £10,000 worth of damage, Bury St Edmunds Youth Court heard.

The fire was extinguished by a quick-thinking teacher and experts say the blaze could have destroyed the college if it had been left to spread.

Prosecuting, Andrea Reynolds said the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was seen spraying aerosol over a toilet roll holder before starting the fire on January 17.

More than 1,400 students were evacuated and teacher Chris Finbow, who was a retained firefighter for four years, tackled the blaze with a fire extinguisher.

Miss Reynolds said: “The flames were licking up towards the ceiling. He was able to extinguish all of the flames single-handedly.

“If it weren’t for his actions, it was said the fire could have spread and destroyed the whole of the college.”

She told the court that in an interview, the boy admitted to ‘being fascinated by fire’ and started the blaze because he was ‘bored’.

She added that work to repair the damage would cost £9,979.50.

Claire Lockwood, in mitigation, said the boy had not thought through the consequences of his actions.

She added: “He has had some very difficult experiences in his childhood that has led to this type of behaviour.

“Unless he works with the right agencies on that, those problems are still going to be there. He’s not set out to harm anybody. In some ways, you may feel it’s a cry for help.”

When sentencing, presiding magistrate Sylvia Roberts said: “This was a serious offence and incident. The prime driver of the bench in the youth court is the rehabilitation of the offender and to prevent further offences. Custody in this particular case wouldn’t achieve this goal.”

The boy was given a 12-month referral order.