THE then-teenager who admitted to burning down part of a Tamworth high school faces several years behind bars, after he lost his bid to keep the case in the children’s court.
The 20-year-old, who cannot be named because he was 17 at the time of the 2012 fire, appeared via video link in Tamworth’s Children’s Court on Thursday from a Central Coast juvenile detention centre where he is being held.
Solicitor Fiona Hadlington made written submissions in a bid to keep the arson case in the children’s court.
“The matter is extraordinarily serious,” she told the court.
The man has pleaded guilty to aggravated breaking-and-entering and committing a serious indictable offence, after breaking into Oxley High School on March 18, 2012, and stealing several items, as well as intentionally or recklessly destroying the Castlereagh block of the school by fire whilst in company. He was extradited from Victoria in May after a forensic breakthrough linked his DNA to a pair of rubber gloves recovered from the scene of the fire.
The suspicious blaze spiralled out of control in minutes and destroyed the block that housed physical education rooms, science labs and English classrooms.
The court heard on Thursday that a claims loss assessor had submitted a report detailing a damage bill to “the amount of $12 million”.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Rob Baillie opposed the application, arguing the seriousness of the issue should be dealt with in a higher court.
“I’m making an application to have the matter moved to the district court,” he said.
The district court carries higher maximum penalties for offences in comparison to the children’s jurisdiction, which is limited to two years in a detention centre.
Ms Hadlington told the court her client “knew what he was getting into”, but he was influenced by an adult co-accused, who he claims was responsible for starting the fire.
Ms Hadlington said her client had suffered a “significant disadvantage” growing up and had battled drug addictions, but had since “demonstrated considerable remorse”.
“There is no professional planning or execution,” she said. “The intention … was to steal property, the fire was an afterthought.”
Magistrate Michael Holmes said he took into account the accused was 17 at the time, but said the matter needed to be dealt with according to law.
The man’s sentence is expected to be handed down next year.
He remains bail-refused.
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