Arsonists target Suffolk schools

SUFFOLK'S schools and colleges have been targeted by arsonists more than 40 times over the past two years, police have said.

Colin Adwent

SUFFOLK'S schools and colleges have been targeted by arsonists more than 40 times over the past two years, police have said.

The scale of the problem became apparent after the Conservative Party put in a Freedom of Information request to all 49 police forces in the UK.

Although Suffolk's recorded incidents were not originally included in the figures, Kate Rutsch, a spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary, said: “There were 41 incidents that have been 'crimed' as arson or arson with intent to endanger life in school and college premises in Suffolk in 2007 and 2008.”

The worst case of arson at a Suffolk school in that period was at St Felix Middle School in Newmarket on August 5 last year.

Former pupil Daniel Mitson caused damage valued at �5million when he set light to a classroom in a prank which went wrong.

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In February this year Mitson, 15, was sentenced to an 18-month detention training order when he appeared before Ipswich Crown Court.

Nationally there were 2,702 recorded arsons according to figures from the 42 of 49 police authorities who responded.

In Scotland alone there were 1,252 cases recorded between January 2007 and last December - the highest figure of any of the four countries.

In the same period in England there were 1,249 incidents, in Wales there were 126 and in Northern Ireland there were 75.

It is not known how many of the attacks were carried out by pupils.

Michael Gove, shadow schools minister, said: "The large number of arson attacks, on top of all the other problems in schools, is deeply worrying.

"A Conservative government would give teachers the powers they need to deal with violence and remove disruptive pupils.

"We would also give headteachers the power to ban any items they think may cause violence or disruption and abolish the current Government guidance which tells teachers not to search children who refuse to be searched.''

Children's minister Delyth Morgan said heads have already been given the power to search pupils for weapons, and the Apprenticeships Children, Skills and Learning Bill making its way through Parliament would give them additional rights to search for alcohol, drugs and stolen property.

She added that the government is working with the Arson Prevention Bureau to cut the number of arson attacks on schools.