Parents may face school fire claim

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THE PARENTS of two teenagers who set fire to a school could face an unprecedented action for compensation from their local education authority.

Hereford and Worcester County Council said yesterday that it intended to lodge a claim for damages in the High Court against the families of Anthony Quinn, 17, and Jonathan Measures, 18, who had been found guilty in the criminal courts of an arson attack on the Bishop Bluecoat School, Hereford.

Legal experts said last night that it could be very difficult to persuade a civil judge that parents could be held to account for the actions of their children. But John Renney, the county solicitor for Hereford and Worcester, said there was nothing in theory to prevent the success of a claim that the families had exercised 'insufficient control of their children'.

He said: 'It would be a start if we could show that it was wrong to allow them to have matches.'

The claim will not be for the pounds 13,000 worth of damage the teenagers caused to the voluntary aided Church of England School - which can be reclaimed - but for the higher insurance premiums and administrative costs the council will have to shoulder.

David Muffett, chairman of Hereford and Worcester's education committee, said that he wanted parents to accept responsibility for the wilful damage their children caused. 'I don't see why parents should get away scot-free. If they leave their children out at night to set fire to a school there is no reason why they should not be in the dock next to them.'

The chairman of the Anglican school's governors, the Ven Leonard Moss, Archdeacon of Hereford, said that his colleagues' permission would have to be sought before a claim could go to the courts.

However, Hereford and Worcester said that it would sue, whatever the governors decided.