School fire kept arsonist warm

A youth who set fire to Nayland College because "he was cold" has been sentenced.

Youth beneficiary Cade Mitchell Connelly-Bourne, 17, was sentenced to 100 hours of community work and forced to pay reparations of $900 at the Nelson District Court yesterday.

The court heard that at about 12.30am on Monday September 30, Connelly-Bourne, along with an associate, ripped paper notices from notice boards at Nayland College and piled them on the concrete just one metre away from one of the wooden buildings.

Using a can of deodorant and a lighter, he ignited the paper, before placing a plastic chair in the fire that caused the fire to intensify, damaging the window and walls.

Connelly-Bourne sprayed some water on the fire, which failed to put it out, before placing a table on top of the fire that finally extinguished it.

Defence counsel Ian Miller said Connelly-Bourne's actions were stupid, not malicious.

He asked the judge to take into account the defendant's age, and his lack of criminal history.

Connelly-Bourne was remorseful and told the police about the incident at the first opportunity.

Judge Tony Zohrab said although Connelly-Bourne made promises as part of a restorative justice programme, his failure to comply with the conditions set out was disappointing.

"You looked the victim in the eye and said you would do some things and showed remorse but it is very easy to say one thing and do another."

Schools were regularly a breeding ground for dumb things to happen, like arson, he said.

Connelly-Bourne was fortunate that there was not further damage.

He was convicted and sentenced to 100 hours of community work, and ordered to pay $900 reparations at $20 per week.

Outside of court, Connelly-Bourne said on the night of the incident he was walking from a friend's house from Richmond to Nelson when he felt cold so he decided to hide from the rain at Nayland College.

In a bid to keep warm he lit some paper on fire, but a chair was too close and it caught fire.

When it was getting out of control he put it out, went home and thought nothing of it.

Three days later he received a phone call from police and told them everything.

He said he did not realise he had caused any damage and that by no means was he trying to set his former high school on fire.

He greatly regretted what had happened and he was sad that he had caused a whole lot of trouble.

"I know I am not going to do anything like this ever again. I don't want to do stupid things anymore because it is so easy to get caught."

The consequences were too vast, he said.

He planned to start a fulltime sports youth course at the community college and hoped to complete his community work on the weekends.

Nayland College principal Rex Smith said he accepted the outcome and he was glad that the matter had been dealt with and gone through the correct process.

There was no evidence to suggest Connelly-Bourne's actions were the result of a vendetta against his former school.

"That is pure speculation and I would hate to hear any rumours such as that."

The principal could only hope Connelly-Bourne would get his life back on track.

"It is all about learning something from what has happened."