Boy, 11, gets criminal record after arson attack

A schoolboy has become one of the youngest people in the country to be given a criminal record after he admitted vandalism during an arson attack when he was 10 years old.

The boy, now 11, admitted a charge of criminal damage relating to a fire in a chapel on a college campus last July when he appeared at Plymouth Youth Court in Devon. Two of his friends, aged 11 and 12 at the time, admitted arson at the same court in December.

The court heard that the three got into the unsecured building at the College of St Mark and St John and flicked "matchbombs" and lit tissue paper, using a fire extinguisher to douse the flames. While the youngest boy was in the toilet, the others started a fire they could not put out, and the trio fled. The blaze caused £115,000 of damage. The boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told magistrates he was sorry for what he did.

His father told the court: "We were horrified he was a part of this. He was with the wrong people at the wrong time but it doesn't excuse him. We have tried to bring him up to do the right thing and he did wrong. Hopefully, this will be the only time he will be up in front of you. We are sorry for everyone involved."

The boy, from Plymouth, was given a four-month referral order for criminal damage to a fire extinguisher after a charge of arson, which he had denied, was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. Ten is the youngest age a person can face criminal charges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland it is 12.