Tayside and Central Scotland

Andrew Stretton sentenced over East Plean primary school blaze

Andrew Stretton
Image caption Andrew Stretton admitted starting the fire that spread to the school

A teenager who started a fire which caused millions of pounds worth of damage to a primary school has escaped a jail sentence.

Andrew Stretton, 18, set fire to a cardboard box in a wooden shed, but the blaze spread to the main building of East Plean primary, near Stirling.

The building was so badly damaged it had to be demolished.

A sheriff said Stretton only meant to set the box alight, and sentenced him to community service and probation.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that more than 16 months later the school's 160 pupils were still having to study in temporary classrooms in a nearby field, and Stirling Council surveyors now estimated the total cost of the blaze at more than £5m.

Lindsey Brooks, prosecuting, said the fire had started on 6 November 2010, when Stretton went into a shed next to the school at about 19:00, with two boys aged 12 and 15.

The depute fiscal said the shed was used by a nursery to store toys for the children, and although it was not structurally connected to the school, it was very close to it.

Mrs Brooks said guttering on the school seemed to have caught fire first, and by the time firefighters arrived the blaze was "extensive and ongoing".

The other two boys involved have since been dealt with by the Children's Reporter.

Stretton, now of Port of Menteith, Stirling, admitted at an earlier hearing to starting the fire.

'Dangerous actions'

He had originally been accused of doing so wilfully, but his plea to a reduced charge of culpable and reckless conduct was accepted by the Crown.

Virgil Crawford, defending, said: "This case has had a significant effect on my client personally. It became clear pretty quickly he was responsible for this, which caused consternation amongst members of the local community, and he quickly became a target for them.

"In one case, someone tried to get into his house to attack him, and he has had to move out the Plean area. He has learnt a significant lesson."

Sheriff William Gilchrist ordered Stretton to carry out 300 hours of community service, and put him on probation for two years.

He said: "There have been very serious consequences for the community following your dangerous actions, and the cost of damage is significant however much it was.

"There is no way you are going to be able to compensate the local community for what you did, but a community service order will at least go some way to paying them back."

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