Gaol for teen arsonists

• The last vestiges of Mt Lawley Primary School. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

• The last vestiges of Mt Lawley Primary School. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

THERE has been mixed reaction to the eight-month gaol sentence handed to two youths convicted of burning down Mt Lawley primary school last year.

The teenagers, who were 15 and 16 at the time, will be eligible for community-based supervision after serving four months.

Juvenile offenders are housed at the Hakea adult prison after a riot damaged the Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre.

Children’s court president Judge Denis Reynolds says the duo—who admitted to being stoned and drunk when lighting plastic chairs—left the fire burning and were therefore criminally responsible for the $9 million destruction of the 100-year-old school.

Mt Lawley Liberal MP Michael Sutherland says gaol time is appropriate. Most locals he knows think they’re getting off lightly.

“There are mixed views on the sentences handed down to the arsonists,” he says.

“On the whole the view is that the prison term is seen as too short considering the huge damage caused, compounded by the fact that the perpetrators had been drinking and smoking dope, it also seems like an accelerant was used to get the fire going.”

Primary school P&C president Mel Smithin says a community-based sentence would have been more beneficial.

“Most people I talk to in the school community feel that a community-based sentence would have been better,” she says.

“It would have given them a chance to give something back to the community that they took away from.

“People I talk to are surprised by the judge’s decision.”

Stirling mayor David Boothman says young people tend to get away with lighter sentences.

“In general I do believe there are far too many instances were people are given light sentences or let off due to their age or circumstances (intoxication, drug taking, harsh upbringing, etc.) I believe you do the crime—you should be prepared to accept the consequences regardless,” he says.

“The local community are the big losers in this instance, and I feel strongly that substantial requirement should be placed on offenders to address this aspect.

“Substantial community service should be a standard requisite in any sentencing for offences of this nature.”

Lawley ward councillor Rod Willox regards the sentence as “reasonable under the circumstances”.

A $12.5 million rebuild is scheduled to start in October with the school reopening for the 2015 term.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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