'One last chance' for teenage arsonist who, with his pal, caused £150,000 damage to North Bay chalets in Scarborough

A teenage arsonist has been spared prison following an inferno which caused nearly £150,000 damage to Scarborough’s famous North Bay chalets.

By Court Reporter
Monday, 28th September 2020, 2:47 pm
Updated Monday, 28th September 2020, 2:50 pm

The 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, avoided a similar fate to his young partner-in-crime who was jailed for more than four years last month for the “monstrous” act.

The pair sneaked out into the darkness in the early hours of August 22 last year and made a beeline for the North Bay Chalet Complex, where they broke into 18 seafront chalets and torched six of them, causing more than £149,000 of damage, York Crown Court heard.

The 15-year-old youth appeared for sentence on Friday after pleading guilty to arson and several burglaries with intent to steal.

Firefighters at the scene last year

Prosecutor John Batchelor said the pair had sneaked out of a children’s home in Scarborough armed with boxes of matches and broke into Peasholm Park Café where they stole £60 from the till and the tips bowl.

They then broke into the seafront chalets and trashed them, stealing items including cans of alcohol and causing £5,600 of damage.

They set ablaze six of the famous beach huts, causing £141,000 of fire damage, added Mr Batchelor.

The site manager arrived and found a scene of absolute devastation at about 8am, by which time the young arsonists had scarpered.

The Peasholm Café window was smashed to bits and the cash register and tips bowl were missing. The cash register was later found dumped in a wood.

She had been alerted by security at about 6.50am that firefighters were at the scene tackling a major blaze at the complex which was strewn with broken glass from smashed chalet windows.

One of the chalets was “completely destroyed” and all its contents had gone up in smoke including electronic items and a wetsuit belonging to the tenant.

Another 16 chalets had windows and doors damaged, said Mr Batchelor.

The damage was so severe that the total repair bill came to £149,400.

Police found a soft-drink can at the scene with the defendant’s DNA on it and caught up with him a few hours later, when they found a broken beer bottle and three packets of matches in his rucksack.

The youth had 22 previous convictions and was subject to a youth rehabilitation order at the time of the arson. He had committed further offences after being arrested for the carnage at North Bay.

Defence barrister Nick Peacock said the teenager had endured a “very tragic” upbringing and had had 21 previous foster-care placements.

He said it was strongly suspected that the youngster’s offending could be put down to the “malign influence” of his mate and fellow arsonist who was of a similar age and had racked up a “shocking” 41 previous offences.

Mr Peacock said his client no longer consorted with the youth, had been trouble-free for the past 12 months and was no longer taking drugs or drinking.

Judge Sean Morris described the burning of the chalets as a “monstrous crime against the owners and indeed against the people of Scarborough”.

He told the defendant: “In August 2019, Scarborough lost some of its most precious assets, those chalets on the front that everybody takes photographs of, and they are much loved by their owners and the townsfolk. This sort of wanton damage raises the hackles.”

Mr Morris said he was left with the “stark choice” of either locking the youth up for a determinate period of time, which would hinder his rehabilitative progress, or give him one more chance.

Ultimately, he decided it was better to give him another chance because he had made “remarkable” progress since the offences and he did not want to impede this.

“It’s quite clear that you have turned a leaf,” added Mr Morris.

“The real villain in this piece, in my view, has been punished. You fell in with (this teenager) who is a worrying individual and I have classed him as a dangerous offender.”

The defendant was given a 12-month youth-rehabilitation order which includes intensive surveillance and supervision and a three-month nightly curfew which will be electronically monitored.

The other youth - who went on to stab a male nurse within inches of his life during a robbery in Harrogate five months after being bailed for the Scarborough arson – was jailed for four years and eight months in August.

The teenager, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, will have to serve at least two-thirds of that sentence behind bars, possibly even the whole tariff if the Parole Board deems him unfit for release.

Upon his eventual release, he will have to serve an extended three years on prison licence due to his “exceptionally-serious record…which beggared belief”.