Teenager admits youth shelter fire

A TEENAGER was “egged on” to torch a church-funded youth shelter built to help cut crime, a court heard.

Will Clarke

A TEENAGER was “egged on” to torch a church-funded youth shelter built to help cut crime, a court heard.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted a single charge of arson in Bury St Edmunds when he appeared before magistrates in the town on Wednesday.

Watched by other young people, the 15-year-old set the youth shelter alight in Moreton Hall on January 3 this year.

He must now attend meetings and carry out a series of activities to divert him from crime as part of the order.

Sarah Jane Atkins, prosecuting, said the shelter had been built thanks to the fundraising effort of the local congregation of Christ Church and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

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Describing the events which led up to the fire she said: “Other youths were present at the time and shared in the experience of filling it with hay.

“The defendant was advised not to light it but he did before he panicked and ran off.

“Later under police interview the defendant said he thought he could stamp it out but it wasn't possible.”

Ms Atkins also said the youth, who had no previous convictions, had five previous matters of criminal damage, which had been dealt with by a reprimand.

Claire Lockwood, defending, said her client should be given credit for cooperating with the police and for pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.

She said although the youth was responsible he had been “egged on” by other boys and his compulsiveness had been affected by his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

She said the 15-year-old had hoped to be involved in repairing the shelter but found it had already been repainted by volunteers from the church community.

And despite the church naming the cost of the repairs at an estimated �1,000 magistrates told the youth he would only have to pay �60 court costs in addition to the referral order, giving him his due credit for his guilty plea.

The shelter was completed in 2004 and opened by Bury MP David Ruffley when it was trumpeted as a way of taking anti-social behaviour problems away from the shopping areas in Moreton Hall.