Vandal who set fire to Midlothian community centre escapes jail

VANDAL who set fire to a new-build community centre causing more than £500,000 worth of damage has escaped a jail term.

Friday, 25th May 2018, 1:24 pm
Updated Friday, 25th May 2018, 1:26 pm
A vandal who torched the centre has escaped jail.

Connor Currie set light to wooden panels outside The Beacon Centre in Gorebridge, Midlothian, in an early morning attack last year.

Currie used a lighter to ignite a corner panel of the £2.5 million community hub which quickly escalated into an inferno as he made his way home from a night out.

The fire starter then ran off towards his nearby home and the ensuing blaze engulfed a large section of the community centre at around 4am on May 18 last year.

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Firefighters battled for three hours to contain the blaze to the building which caused a total damage of around £600,000 and was due to be opened to the public the following month.

The Gorebridge Beacon Hub project - which is still under construction - was funded by Midlothian Council, the Big Lottery and the Scottish Investment Fund and is the result of a long-running community campaign.

Currie, from Gorebridge, pleaded guilty to setting the The Beacon on fire during a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month and he returned to court on Thursday for sentencing.

The 21-year-old had also admitted a charge of setting fire to a chair outside a residential home in the town three days previously.

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Sheriff Frank Crowe told the arsonist: “The amount involved in charge three is £600,000 damage and this community centre for the good folk of Gorebridge have not been able to enjoy the centre.

“But you are holding down a permanent job and I am impressed you have been to Meld and got you health sorted out.”

Sheriff Crowe ordered Currie to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work in the community as punishment for starting the blaze.

Previously the court was told Currie was caught on CCTV from a nearby leisure centre near the area at around 4am on May 18 last year.

Fiscal depute Lorna Ferrier said: “The damage to the property was in the region of £600,000. The building consists of a children’s nursery, a large hall and a meeting room.

“At about 4.40am the police became aware the fire service had been called out. A [subsequent] investigation showed the fire had been started deliberately.

“The seat of the fire was on the outside of the premises.”

The cruel vandal had earlier got off a night bus and headed past the Beacon on his way home from a night out.

Ms Ferrier added: “He used a lighter to set fire to the building. He then made off.”

The fiscal also told the court of an earlier incident where had Currie set fire to a chair outside an elderly residential centre in the town.

Andrew Houston, defending, said his client had been using drugs at the time of the offences and Currie had been in “a dark place with his mental well-being” around the time.

The brief added Currie, who works full time as a chef, was addressing his problems and is currently receiving counselling.

The Gorebridge Community Development Trust have been contacted for a comment.

Currie admitted wilfully setting fire to a chair outside the main entrance of Emily Court Residential Home, Gorebridge, and the chair was badly damaged on May 15 last year.

He also pleaded guilty to wilfully setting fire to unknown items positioned against the The Beacon building, Hunterfield Road, Gorebridge, and the fire took hold and the building was extensively damaged on May 18 last year.