Girl arsonist is spared jail

Mick Phyall outside his Coffea Caban on Blandford Street which is closed because of a fire in the back lane which has damaged the kitchens.
Mick Phyall outside his Coffea Caban on Blandford Street which is closed because of a fire in the back lane which has damaged the kitchens.
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A CAFE owner has hit out after arsonist was spared jail for causing £10,000 of damage to his business.

Rachael Atkinson, 19, targeted industrial waste bins in Sunderland city centre.

The burnt out bin outside Coffea Caban in the back lane of Blandford Street.

The burnt out bin outside Coffea Caban in the back lane of Blandford Street.

One fire caused £10,000 of damage to the Coffea Caban premises and meant it had to close for three days to be repaired.

Owner Mick Phyall slammed Atkinson, saying: “It affected the lives of 10 people in the shop because they were out of work for three days and missed out on pay.

“It lost the business £10,000 and has caused a lot of heartache.

“The damage she did, she really could have killed someone if there was somebody in the building.

“How someone can do this beats me.”

Newcastle Crown Court heard how flames from one of the four bins that caught fire on March 2 last year spread to the Blandford Street cafe.

During a second string of attacks, on March 19, three industrial bins at the rear of Blandford Street were destroyed.

Atkinson was arrested near the scene of the second set of fires and admitted her involvement.

When shown CCTV footage of the Coffea Caban blaze she confessed she had started the fires that night too.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court: “The first offences took place on March 2.

“On that evening a number of waste bins were destroyed behind the city centre.

“Fires destroyed four bins and one of those fires, at the rear of Coffea Caban, caused extensive damage to the inside of the premises.

“It was closed for three days and the total damage was £10, 000.

“On March 19 security guards at the Bridges shopping centre saw the defendant and another person setting fire to bins at the rear of Blandford Street. Three bins were destroyed.”

Atkinson, of Mowbray Road, Sunderland, admitted five charges of arson.

Christopher Rose, defending, said Atkinson started the fires with an older male, who has never been charged in connection with the offences.

Mr Rose said: “My instructions are it was his idea and he took the lead role.

“It may well be she is someone who would be easily drawn into this behaviour.”

Mr Recorder Davey sentenced Atkinson to a community order for 18 months with supervision.

The judge said he had read medical and pre-sentence reports in her case.

He told Atkinson: “You are not a bad person who needs to be locked up, you are somebody who needs a bit of help.”