Manchester fireman death: Girl has arson charge dropped

Stephen Hunt Image copyright Greater Manchester Fire
Image caption Stephen Hunt was among 60 firefighters called to the fire

A girl accused of causing a fire which killed a firefighter was "guilty only of being careless", a judge has said as the arson case against her was dropped.

Stephen Hunt, 38, of Bury died while tackling the 2013 blaze at Paul's Hair World in Manchester's Northern Quarter.

The girl, then 15 but now aged 16, had denied a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Manchester Crown Court heard new evidence indicated the fire was consistent with a discarded cigarette.

This contradicted earlier findings which ruled out the fire being started accidentally.

Alexander Leach, prosecuting, said: "The crown's case, which had previously been based upon such evidence which tended to exclude accidental ignition, can no longer be sustained, so as a result I offer no evidence against the defendant."

Judge Michael Henshell said the "potential and actual" dangers of a cigarette discarded "without any thought" had been demonstrated by this "terrible and tragic case".

He said: "Terrible consequences for a thoughtless act but the girl who has been hitherto charged with this offence was in fact blameless of a criminal act and guilty only of being careless."

The teenager, who cannot be named due to her age, had been due to stand trial on Monday.

Sixty firefighters tackled the blaze as Mr Hunt, who had five years' experience, got into difficulty inside the building.

The ex-soldier died of his injuries in hospital.

More than 1,000 fire officers, emergency services personnel and public lined the streets of Bury for Mr Hunt's funeral.

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