Longton arson attack leads to £400k repair bill
AN ARSON attack at a printing company caused £400,000 of damage to two businesses, it has been revealed.
A huge fire ripped through a warehouse belonging to Times Square Ltd, in Longton, destroying printing paper and machinery.
It also damaged the premises of neighbouring Sheltonian China, causing the firm to lose a £45,000 contract.
Firefighters spent five hours tackling the blaze, which caused the closure of several roads and a section of the Stoke to Derby rail line on April 29.
Yesterday a 15-year-old boy was given a referral order after admitting he started the fire. It emerged the youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had lit a single strip of paper with a lighter after getting into the warehouse with a group of friends.
Crown Prosecution Service solicitor Andrew Bodger said the warehouse was opposite the company's main premises in Caroline Street, and was used for storage.
The youths were messing around in some shredded paper that was to be disposed of when one of them held out a strip to the defendant and told him to light it.
But because of chemicals used on printing paper it burned very quickly, and was dropped onto piles of paper treated with the same substances. Despite members of the group trying to stamp out the flames, the fire quickly spread.
Mr Bodger said: "The losses were quite considerable for Times Square Ltd. It's estimated it cost £10,000 in materials, £95,000 in equipment, £5,500 emergency costs and £242,000 building costs.
"The heat of the fire cracked an adjacent wall, that of Sheltonian China, and water flowed into the china company. It caused water damage to stock and the company lost an order in excess of £40,000 as a result. That, together with the damage, amounted to costs of £45,000."
Geoff Davies, owner of Sheltonian China, said the firm was still picking up the pieces after the fire.
"The fire has made things a lot harder for a lot of people," he said.
"I've still got damage to my building that needs to be worked on. I can't run my business in the way I could before.
"I'm not happy that the lad's done what he's done, but he's got to live with it. When people make mistakes like that it affects people's lives."
Following the fire, police arrested and bailed eight boys, all aged 14 and 15 and from Longton. Only one was prosecuted, while the others were released from their bail without charge.
North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court heard the boy, who was 14 at the time of the offence, had never been in trouble before.
Magistrates handed him a 12-month referral order yesterday. He will have to carry out 40 hours of reparation work and complete various programmes organised by the Youth Offending Service. If he complies with the order, he will not have a criminal record.
His solicitor, Emma Meredith, said he had been the victim of bullies.
She said: "The worry this family has been through since this incident has been a real punishment. There was emotional bullying taking place and these boys were manipulating him.
"He had previously said he wouldn't go into the building when the others did. He doesn't smoke, he doesn't usually have a lighter. He was trying to join in with what the others were doing."