'˜Slap on wrist' for £650K fire

Questions have been raised over why a teenager who caused a massive blaze which cost around £650,000 only received a police caution.

Wednesday, 27th July 2016, 9:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2016, 10:39 am
Fleetwood firefighters are now beginning to spray the Jameson Road storage unit fire with water as the next stage in putting it out. PIC BY ROB LOCK 21-4-2016

The 16-year-old boy admitted starting the fire at a warehouse on Jameson Road, Fleetwood on the evening of Saturday April 16.

At the time of the blaze the warehouse, belonging to Reform Energy, contained 3,000 tonnes of baked plastic.

It took around a month before it was fully extinguished after the fire was allowed to wind down in a controlled manner.

Some nearby residents were left with sore throats and streaming eyes.

The boy has now received a police caution and been told to write a letter saying sorry, but no other actions will be taken.

The offence of arson can carry a range of sentence options, even for minors, if taken through the courts, ranging from custodial terms at the high end of offending to community orders.

Ivor Bould, chairman of Fleetwood Neighbourhood Watch Committee, admitted he was surprised and concerned about the outcome in this case.

Mr Bould said: “I think it is totally unacceptable to give this boy a slap on the wrist when this fire caused this much damage and at such a huge financial cost. What kind of message does this send to others for such a serious offence? The authorities had other options but they obviously haven’t used them.”

Bob Boal, of Fleetwood Community Trust, said: “Some kind of community service order would have sent a stronger message to youths that arson is not something to take lightly. Others will think there is no consequence to setting fires to things.”

And Coun Ruth Duffy, ward councillor for the town’s Mount ward, said: “That is a very lenient sentence for a deliberate fire which caused a lot of damage and needed a large team of firefighters to tackle it.

“At the end of the day, this lad may be young but he is old enough to know right from wrong and that there are consequences for his actions. He could have put people in danger. I don’t know of this boy’s circumstances but it was a serious offence.”

A Lancashire Police spokesperson said: “As a result of liaising with the Youth Offending Team, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and the owner of the company connected with the building it was decided that a conditional caution was the most appropriate resolution for this incident and the boy involved.”

Reform Energy did not wish to comment about the caution given to the youth.

But the company said its own losses amounted to around £350,000 for the destruction of the warehouse and some of the further costs incurred from making the site safe, for which it would be making an insurance claim.

Additional costs would include the loss of the plastic material destroyed in the fire, although Reform says the bales of plastic did not belong to the company and were owned by a business partner who was storing the material there.

The Reform spokesman explained that the warehouse was not part of the company’s forthcoming plans to build a nearby renewable energy plant, which is expected to be operational by early 2018 and will be used to power Fleetwood’s new fish and food park which will is also set to open that year.

Residents in Fleetwood also responded with disbelief to the sentence, via Facebook.

Samantha Parkinson said: “What is a caution going to teach him? Absolutely nothing. The fire wasn’t just some little fire that could have been extinguished easily. For weeks residents were inconvenienced.”

Carol Sleet said: “Fair enough, no one was hurt, but what about the firemen who put their lives at risk because some silly little kids think it’s fun setting a fire?”