Teenager pleads guilty to causing Parkgate marshland fire

A 15-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to deliberately causing a large fire on marshland near Parkgate and Neston.

The teenager, who can’t be named for legal reasons, appeared at Chester Magistrates on 25 August for trial. He pleaded guilty on the first day to arson and damage of a site of special scientific interest.

He was handed a nine-month referral order and ordered to pay £200 court fees and £22 victim surcharge.

Two other 15-year-old boys, who also can’t be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to arson and damage at an earlier hearing. They were also handed a nine-month referral order and ordered to pay £120 court costs and £22 victim surcharge.

The fire occurred, at around 6.15pm on Saturday 19 March 2022 in Parkgate Marshlands. Four young suspects were seen fleeing the scene not long after the fire started.

The three boys admitted they were at the scene but not who set the fire.

The fire damaged an extensive area of tall well-established reedbed vegetation. The most significant impact of the fire is likely to be the loss of breeding habitat for specialist bird species as well as wintering roost sites. The implication of the damage to the site and the wildlife was significant.

DC Adam Spencer said, “What these boys did devastated the breeding grounds for protected species under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.

“While all of them admitted to being present at the site, none of them would admit who started fire, leaving us with no option but to prosecute all three teenagers, meaning that they will all now be tarred with criminal records which will have lifelong implications.

“The impact of their actions that day cannot be underestimated; the fire caused significant damage to the marshes which is likely to have a significant impact on local wildlife for years to come.

“The message here is think before you act.”

Ginny Hinton, Deputy Director, Natural England Cheshire to Lancashire Team, said, “Natural England assisted in investigating this crime and in assessing the damage to this important nature site. Our survey showed the fire had devastated a large area of reedbed and saltmarsh, destroying habitat for endangered birds like the Hen Harrier and Bittern. It will take a long time for the site to recover.

“This incident highlights the need to follow the Countryside Code  and respect, protect and enjoy the great outdoors. This also provides a reminder of the far-reaching impact of fire on our well-loved natural spaces.”

Main image with thanks to AndyParry on Twitter

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