Teen arson locked up for �6.5m prank

A TEENAGE boy who burned down his former school in a prank that cost �6.5million has been locked up for 18 months.

Helen Skene

A TEENAGE boy who burned down his former school in a prank that cost �6.5million has been locked up for 18 months.

Daniel Mitson, who turns 15 today, threw two rocks through a window of St Felix Middle School in Newmarket and set fire to a classroom.

Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday that the flames ripped through the open roof void, causing the ceilings to collapse and the entire school and its contents to be destroyed at a cost estimated at �5m.

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Godfried Duah, prosecuting, said the cost of providing temporary accommodation for pupils and staff was a further �1.5 million pounds.

Mitson, who had attended the school for a year and left in June 2007, pleaded guilty to arson on August 5 last year.

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Mr Duah said the teenager, of Silverley Way, Ashley, had been cycling in Newmarket and had gone to the school with a friend, breaking in through a window and starting the fire.

He said Mitson, who had a record for causing criminal damage by smashing windows and had a two- year Asbo (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) excluding him from certain areas of Newmarket, committed the offence just six days after being sentenced to a reparation order for causing criminal damage, shoplifting and breaching the Asbo.

Julian Christopher, mitigating, said: “This was a prank which went wrong. This was an attempt to set off the fire alarms and he was reckless as to whether there would be some damage.”

He added that Mitson had been remanded in secure accommodation since the offence and had “reflected on his previous behaviour, expressed remorse and realised the impact on the local community and potential victims, and has awareness that he had made stupid choices”.

Judge John Devaux sentenced Mitson to 18 months detention and training in a Young Offenders' Institute.

He told the teenager: “This was a fire caused recklessly rather than intentionally.

“You are not charged with endangering life and did not introduce petrol or other accelerant into the school.”

After the hearing, Detective Inspector Jeff Yaxley, of Suffolk police, said: “The most we could have hoped for was two years and 18 months was close to that.”

He said that the police were aware that schools could become magnets for damage during school holidays and said regular patrols were made during these times.

He said the other boy who went with Mitson to the school was a witness to the crime rather than a suspect.

The court revoked an order preventing the publication of Mitson's name due to his age after a request from the media because of the seriousness of the case.

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