Judge spares Sheffield arsonists

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Two teenage boys involved in an arson attack which generated 140 emergency calls from members of the public have been spared jail.

The boys, who cannot be named because they are 15 and 16, were involved in a blaze at Sheffield’s Ski Village, which destroyed a wooden cafe and toilet block which cost £500,000 to build.

They admitted arson by adding things to a fire, but denied starting it.

Sheffield’s Youth Court heard the pair were among a group of youngsters at the derelict Ski Village in Parkwood Springs on the night the fire was set in April.

It was lit in a bin in one of the outbuildings and was spotted by a police officer, who initially saw smoke.

But by the time the officer returned to his car to get a fire extinguisher to tackle the blaze, the flames had spread and he had to call 999.

Rob Coyne, prosecuting, said the Ski Village was derelict at the time because of a serious blaze the year before and a spate of subsequent arson attacks, vandalism and thefts.

“Two large wooden outbuildings, part of the former children’s playground, were alight. More than 140 calls were received about the blaze,” he said.

“Between 15 and 20 firefighters were deployed for around three hours - they said the incident put a massive strain on the fire service due to the resources used. It caused problems resourcing other incidents.”

He said a police school liaison officer was tipped off about one of the arsonists responsible and he was arrested at school.

Mr Coyne said the 15-year-old became ‘violent with officers on arrest and had to be physically restrained and handcuffed’.

He falsely blamed another youth for starting the fire, and when released on bail contacted a friend to ask him to blame the innocent boy.

He was charged with perverting the course of justice. He pleaded guilty at court and was sentenced to an 18-month rehabilitation order.

His accomplice, who has never been in trouble before, was sentenced to a 12-month referral order.

Sentencing the pair, District Judge Naomi Redhouse said she could have jailed them but believes they will change their behaviour.

“Fire is unpredictable and uncontrollable, something that is very dangerous,” she added.

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