House blaze is started by unhappy teenager

PUBLISHED: 10:57 20 September 2007 | UPDATED: 21:49 29 May 2010

A TEENAGE girl started a fire, which caused between £41,000 and £51,000 damage to the care home where she was living at Broxted, near Dunmow, a court heard on Wednesday. Chelmsford Crown Court was told the 15-year-old girl had only been at the home for 10

A TEENAGE girl started a fire, which caused between £41,000 and £51,000 damage to the care home where she was living at Broxted, near Dunmow, a court heard on Wednesday.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told the 15-year-old girl had only been at the home for 10 days and began the blaze because she was unhappy with her placement.

She thought it was too remote and wanted to be in a residential unit closer to her parents.

The girl, who is now 16 and cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted a charge of arson. She was sentenced to three years detention and must remain on licence for a further period of three years after her release.

Judge Christopher Ball QC told the girl: "It's accepted you didn't set out to deliberately harm somebody, but when you set fire to things there's always a terrible risk to other people. That's why the courts take a harsh line. I do take the view you represent a danger to people."

The girl had earlier denied arson, endangering the lives of others, and after a jury failed to reach a verdict the prosecution offered no further evidence on this charge.

Nicola May, prosecuting, said the three-bedroom house was badly damaged after the teenager started a fire in her room on October 29 last year.

She had fed strips of paper into an electric heater and when they caught fire she used them to set fire to her bed.

The girl was staying at the house in Chapel End, Broxted, with carers Amy Buck and Vincent Fredericks.

On the morning of October 29 Miss Buck was in the kitchen and Mr Fredericks was in an office while the teenager was supposedly in her bedroom.

The smoke alarms went off and Mr Fredericks went to her bedroom where he saw smoke coming from under the door. He knocked on the door calling out her name and then opened the door.

The girl was not there but was discovered in a bathroom and was taken downstairs by Mr Fredericks, the court heard.

Mr Fredericks asked the girl what had happened and she shrugged her shoulders, smiled at him and said: "I put some paper into the radiator."

Graham Brown, mitigating, said the girl's background was "a desperately sad one" and since the age of eight she had been subjected to 28 different placements by the authorities.

Mr Brown said there was no question of any rift between the teenager and her carers and there was no malice towards them. There was no pre-planning.

It was a spontaneous action, which

she regretted and she extended her sorrow to her carers for the situation she put them in. "She didn't realise the fire was going to get to this level," he said.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Dunmow Broadcast