Girl of 13 admits to arson at flat

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A GIRL of 13 set fire to curtains in a Spalding flat and, as the fire spread, neighbours from the block were evacuated from their homes by her friends.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was with friends at 1am on January 5 and was flicking a lighter when a male in the party said: “Go on I dare you, set fire to the curtains”.

At yesterday’s Spalding Youth Court the girl admitted arson, unlawfully damaging property and being reckless as to whether the life of another would be endangered.

The court heard the mother was elsewhere at the time.

Magistrates considered making a parenting order because they held her mother responsible although the girl lit the fire. But no order was made after the mother told the youth offending team she was willing to attend sessions voluntarily.

The court gave the girl a year-long referral order.

Presiding magistrate Jane Tidswell said the girl will meet a panel of people who will draw up a contract to stop her behaving in this way again – and, if she breaks the terms of the contract, she can be brought before the court and sentenced in a different way.

Mrs Tidswell told the girl: “The charge of arson is exceptionally serious and I think by your behaviour this morning you have come to realise you could have endangered a lot of lives living in the whole area of the block of flats.”

Deborah Cartwright, prosecuting, said emergency services were called to the flats just after 1am and fire crews put out the blaze. She said the fire took hold quickly. The girl left to go to her mother’s boyfriend’s address and the other young people present decided to wake neighbours.

Solicitor Rachel Stevens said the teenager set the curtains alight after a dare and believed the fire had fizzled out when she left with friends.

Miss Stevens said: “They looked back and the curtains were very much alight. To this moment she is really unable to account for what came over her.”

The court made no order for compensation because of the mother’s limited means.

Repairs to the flat cost £1,595.27.