A DISTRICT judge ripped into a youth and told him he ‘deserved prison’ for causing £1m damage and ‘wrecking a community’ after he set a sports pavillion on fire.
But judge Anthony Callaway reluctantly admitted he would go against his better judgement and spare the teenager prison even though he confessed: ‘You will breach the order and we will be back here again.’
The 16-year-old arsonist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, set The King George Playing Field Pavillion ablaze last October with another teenager after they broke into the building and torched it.
The teenager, who admitted arson and endangering life, felt the full wrath of Mr Callaway who described the damage to the Portsmouth City Council owned building as ‘shocking’.
The towering inferno was alight for more for more than four hours and resulted in four pumps and around 25 firefighters putting their lives on the line to tackle the blaze before the scene was made safe.
Miraculously no one was hurt apart from the teenager and his younger accomplice who both had to be taken to hospital with ‘traumatic’ burns sustained in the arson.
At Portsmouth Youth Court, Mr Callaway admitted he had no faith in following a recommendation to spare the teenager from going to prison.
He said: ‘There was £1m damage to the property - it is a shocking offence. I don’t think this recommendation will work. You will breach it and we will be back here again.’
But the boy’s mum then pleaded with the judge to spare him jail. She said: ‘He was not in my care when he committed the offence. I did not have a significant impact on him before but he now lives with me.’
Mr Callaway previously imposed a 12-month youth referral order on the younger arsonist, who also admitted a public order offence after throwing a smoke bomb in a shop and racially abusing the shop owner in Portsmouth.
And despite the district judge confessing he ‘smelt a rat’ at the older teenager’s living arrangements after an abrupt address change had resulted in him absconding from court last week, Mr Callaway opted for the same punishment as his accomplice.
He said: ‘You did something very wrong and I think you should serve a custodial sentence after all the lives you risked and the community you wrecked.’
But Mr Callaway reluctantly confirmed he would follow the recommendation and give the youth a 12-month referral order, before adding: ‘I don’t think it will work.’
Defending, Holly Barton, said of the defendant: ‘He is a different person now.’