Teenage arsonist avoids jail after risking 100 lives

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A TEENAGER who went to a party at a sailing club set fire to toilet paper putting more than 100 people ‘at risk’, a court heard.

Robert Masterman had attended the Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club’s Junior Week party on August 4 last year.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard the 19-year-old had gone with a friend to the Hayling Island sailing club.

Between 100 and 120 people had gathered for the event including adults and children, prosecutor Rob Welling said.

Masterman turned up and ordered two pints of cider but bar staff said he did not appear drunk.

Mr Welling told how Masterman had gone to the toilets on the floor beneath where guests had gathered.

‘A matter of 20 minutes later the defendant went back to the toilets, went into the cubicle, locked the cubicle in the gents toilets, set fire to what appeared to be a toilet roll sitting on top of a plastic toilet roll holder.

He put the lit roll on the ground, before leaving the cubicle as a staff member entered the room.

Masterman, of Grove Heath North, Ripley, Woking, later returned went upstairs.

The smoke alarm went off and the crowd was evacuated as smoke filled the club, which suffered £12,000 worth of damage, the court heard.

Sentencing, judge Ian Pearson said: ‘You’re aged 19, you’re of good character, obviously a very immature and silly young man.’

He added: ‘This was an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Fire spreads unpredictable and at speed.

‘Those people attending a function were put at risk.

‘Fortunately there were no injuries, although there was damage to the premises.’

The judge imposed a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, with 20 days of rehabilitation activities.

Masterman must complete 200 hours of unpaid work and a four-month 8pm to 7am curfew.

‘What limited time you have for socialising is going to be significantly reduced.’

Howard Barrington-Clark, for Masterman, said: ‘His stupidity at the start was then followed by panic, what to do, then by true genuine remorse.’

Masterman claimed he was drunk but Mr Welling said this was disputed.

Masterman, who admitted arson reckless as to life endangered, must pay £500 compensation.

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