TWO teenage arsonists have been locked up for a year for starting a fire which caused £46,000 worth of damage to a South Yorkshire supermarket.
Luke Simmons and Daniel Talbot, both aged 18, set fire to cardboard and plastic in the trolley area outside the Co-op in Swallownest, Rotherham, and flames spread inside the store and ripped through the building.
Food worth £20,484 was destroyed in the blaze and £25,000 of damage was caused to the store, with refrigeration units and freezers needing to be replaced.
Sheffield Crown Court heard the pair, who were 17 at the time, panicked when the shop went up in flames and ran off without alerting emergency services.
Elizabeth Martin, prosecuting, said the pair struck in the early hours of October 29, 2010.
Talbot was linked to the offence when he was captured on CCTV using a bank machine outside the Main Street shop – but there was a delay in charging him and his accomplice because of police difficulties in tracking him down.
Talbot was only interviewed about the offence in October last year when he went to the police to report being the victim of a crime but made a ‘full and frank confession,’ the court heard.
Ms Martin said: “The lads, aged 17, had been hanging about and had gone to the bank machine to see if Mr Talbot’s benefits had been paid and for reasons only known to themselves they then decided to light some plastic and cardboard in the trolleys at the back of the premises, adjacent to the wall.
“The damage caused ran to almost £46,000.”
Dermot Hughes, defending Talbot, said the arson attack was ‘reckless rather than wanton’.
“This is an offence which was very much spontaneous – there was no element of planning. Neither young man was prone to causing difficulties for others,” he said.
“The fact they did not phone the emergency services speaks more of their panic than desire to see damage done.”
He said the arson attack was a ‘crass error, wholly out of character and wholly unlikely to ever be repeated again’.
Amanda Denton, representing Simmons, said he had been going through a ‘turbulent’ period in his life and was feeling unsettled after leaving school, starting a new college course without any friends and not knowing where he was going to live.
“He behaved in a way that he had never before and has never since – it was foolish, reckless and idiotic, a moment in this young man’s life that was pure madness.”
She said Simmons, of Pembroke Street, Kimberworth, and Talbot, of Wingfield Close, Wingfield, had severed all ties with each other after the blaze.
Judge Simon Lawler QC, sending the pair to a Young Offenders’ Institute, said despite reading good references the offence was so serious only custody could be justified.
“It does seem to be that this was a spontaneous act but the fire spread, as fire does, and that’s one of the dangers of fire,” he added.