School arsonist avoids jail

A TEENAGER who started a fire which caused millions of pounds worth of damage to a primary school has avoided a jail sentence because he claimed he only meant to set light to a cardboard box.

Andrew Stretton, 18, used a lighter to set fire to the box in a wooden equipment shed, and the blaze spread rapidly to the main building at East Plean Primary School, near Stirling in November 2010.

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Despite the efforts of 40 firemen with 11 fire engines, the Victorian school was so badly damaged that officials decided it had to be demolished. Stirling Sheriff Court heard yesterday that the school’s 160 pupils were still having to study in temporary classrooms in a nearby field, and the total cost of the blaze is estimated at more than £5 million.

The incident occurred when Stretton went into a shed next to the school at around 7pm

However Sheriff William Gilchrist chose not to send him to prison as the Crown accepted he only meant to set fire to the worthless box, and not the multi-million pound school.