James Hargest College arsonist jailed

Last updated 11:56 14/02/2014

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An Invercargill teenager convicted of an arson attack at James Hargest College has been sent to jail.

Duncan Robert Roderick McRae, 19, appeared before Judge Michael Turner for sentence today in the Invercargill District Court after he admitted two charges of arson and two of burglary on October 7, 2012, and January 3, last year.

Judge Turner sentenced McRae, who was 18 at the time of the offending, to three years' and six months jail.

In May last year, his co-offender Campbell Leaf was sentenced to three years and four months' jail.

Judge Turner said McRae and Leaf had unlawfully entered the school twice and set items on fire, succeeding on the second attempt.

In October, 2012, the pair broke into the school by climbing a fence where they removed tools, set two fires causing $500 damage and walked away leaving the fires burning.

The fires burnt out, he said.

Three months later McRae and Leaf broke into the school at 1.30am using pliers to cut through a security fence.

The pair gathered cardboard, timber and wooden off-cuts and placed them on the floor in a classroom in the school's C block.

They set the 1m high pile on fire and made no effort to put it out, Judge Turner said.

The pair then walked home, smoke more legal highs and went to bed, he said.

The fire caused extensive damage, originally thought to be $1.4m worth but actually in the vicinity of $3.2m, he said.

"Your actions have caused considerable harm both financially and emotionally."

The fire occurred in the middle of the night when no one was there but the lives of the fire fighters were put at risk, Judge Turner said.

When spoken to by police McRae admitted his involvement but could not offer a real explanation.

He initially pleaded guilty but sought to vacate it for a not guilty plea, but this was not granted.

He wanted to change plea because he later said he was not there at the time of the offending and not involved.

McRae has since stopped consuming legal highs and alcohol and has undertaken a drug programme.

"You have a desire to remain drug and alcohol free. I accept that is a genuine desire on your part."Judge Turner did not order reparation, because it was unrealistic.

Crown solicitor Mary-Jane Thomas said because of the extent of the damage caused and effects upon the community, children and teachers, it was "really serious" offending.

Defence lawyer Roger Eagles said the judge who sentenced McRae's co-offender accepted he was the leader of the offending.

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- The Southland Times

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