Teen arsonist who set £1m barn fire walks from court
An underage arsonist who set a £1m barn fire told a court he had been ‘stupid and reckless’.
The now 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted setting the fire that destroyed a barn near Eynsham within weeks of the blaze on October 24, 2021.
The child told Oxford Youth Court this week: “I just look back on it as a very stupid and reckless thing and I know that and have admitted that. I’m just very glad that no one was hurt.”
Then aged 15, he handed himself in within weeks of the blaze. Notwithstanding his admissions to starting the fire in an eight-minute long police interview in late 2021, he was not charged and summonsed to the youth court until January this year.
Dealing with the child on Wednesday (February 1), District Judge Kamlesh Rana demanded to know why it had taken so long to get the case to court – and why he had been interviewed by officers on two occasions.
The judge said: “It should have been dealt with, in my opinion, a long time ago – nearer the time it happened – and it should have been dealt with by way of an out of court disposal, to give you the opportunity to get on with the rest of your life.”
Earlier, the court heard that the boy and two friends had been out playing when they got past a locked gate and into Acre Hill Farm, near the A40 north of Eynsham.
They got into the barn, where the boy was said to have been playing with a lighter – using it to set light to pieces of straw.
The boy, who had been climbing the hay, jumped down. “Smoke was coming out of the roof, this escalated rapidly and the barn and its contents were destroyed,” Ms King said.
At the fire’s height, around 40 firefighters from two counties battled to control the flames. It took around 10 days for the scene to be made safe, the court heard.
The cost of the damage – covered by the insurers - was put at more than £1m, with tonnes of hay and farm machinery destroyed.
Appearing before the youth court, he pleaded guilty to a single count of arson.
District Judge Rana imposed a four month youth referral order, telling the boy: “This is your chance to put this behind you, to do the work that’s agreed between you, your mum and the members of the referral order panel and to make sure you do that work yourself if it involves reparations.”
The boy must pay £61 in costs and surcharge.