Sunday, 07 February 2016

Fury at Ulverston arson 'let off'

THEY say to err is human, but to forgive is divine.

However, some Ulverston residents maintain the four young girls who burned down a piece of playground equipment in July got off far too lightly.

Revelations last week the girls – two aged 12 and two aged 13 – had been issued only a warning after they caused £8,500 damage to the Croftlands play area has divided the Ulverston community.

The founders of Croftlands Castle Community Project were quick to pardon the culprits, saying it was “a silly mistake”, “not malicious” and the girls needed the community to “be supporting them”.

But lifelong Ulverston residents and Croftlands Community Association member Thora Wadsworth, 79, said she and plenty of others were not so quick to absolve the girls of either their guilt or their responsibilities.

“It isn’t a matter of forgiving the girls at all – they did what they did,” she said. “But I think they intended to do it. It wasn’t a mistake, it didn’t get out of control. I think the children should have to do some sort of work, even if it’s only litter picking or something like that.”

Ms Wadsworth said over the years it had become apparent that more and more children – of increasingly young ages – were wandering around after dark and getting into mischief.

Her view – and one that was echoed numerous times on the Evening Mail’s website over the weekend – is the only way to curb this behaviour and protect community assets was to force parents to be more responsible.

“Did the girls’ parents know they were out in the middle of the night?” she said. “I wonder if they are going to contribute to repairing the damage that was done?”

But Ulverston deputy mayor, Councillor Judy Pickthall, said a police caution, which will go on the girls’ records, was a very strong message.

She said: “I personally feel a caution is serious business and both the girls and their parents should feel the repercussions of it. I understand the group that has been working to raise money to replace this have looked at it and thought the caution was entirely appropriate. I’m afraid throwing the book at them is not going to stop this kind of thing happening (in the future).”

Fellow Ulverston councillor and former policeman, Councillor Norman Bishop-Rowe, said: “Because they’re under 14, they’re deemed to be under the age of criminal responsibility and it’s only in exceptional circumstances things go straight to court.”

The community project has raised about £5,400 of the targeted £12,000 to rebuild the facility.

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