A TEENY fire-raiser who started a £150,000 blaze at an Accrington store was spared custody by a judge - who told her mother to show the troubled child more love and attention
The 11-year-old schoolgirl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given a two-year supervision order to include outpatient medical treatment after admitting starting a fire which ripped through the Glyn Webb DIY store last February.
Judge Andrew Gilbart QC told Burnley Crown Court that her mother needed as much help as the girl who was "directly emulating her''.
The court heard how women staff at the Blackburn Road store were terrified as the flames took hold, blowing out glass windows. One was screaming, another was struggling for breath and the pair both suffered panic attacks after their ordeal.
The judge told the child what she had done was serious. She had frightened people who were just doing their jobs.
The judge went on: "I think you feel very sorry about that. A number of people want to help you. I am going to find a way of getting you help. You have got to do some work as well. You have to do things too.''
He then turned to the girl's mother who was sitting in the public gallery and told her: "You have got to help her. Make yourself more available to her and less available to others, as has sometimes happened.
"She needs to be cherished as all children need to be cherished. You have got to play your part in making sure this is the last time your daughter ever gets into trouble.''
The court was told that about 6.30pm on 12 February four employees and maybe one customer were in the store.
A woman worker noticed smoke drifting across the premises. She phoned the Fire Brigade and the manager activated the fire alarm.
As the worker was standing on the pavement a large window blew outwards. She was terrified and wanted to run away but was guided to a fire meeting area for staff. All three female staff members on duty had been traumatised by the fire.
The girl, then 10, was interviewed by police two days later and agreed she had started the blaze with matches. She said she shouldn't have done it and realised she had caused a lot of damage.
John Maxwell, defending the girl, urged the court to make a supervision order. He said much of the girl's behaviour was indicative of self-protection mechanisms, badly directed.
She needed the mechanisms to cope with an unhappy life. The barrister continued: "Hopefully she is not damaged yet.
"The supervision order, if it can, should be assisting her mother as well as her."
- THE Glyn Webb store re-opened just a fortnight ago after a major refurbishment following the fire which also cost an estimated £500,000 in damaged stock and lost trade.