AN ELEVEN-year-old boy has admitted starting a fire which ripped through a house causing £25,000 worth of damage.
The newly-built property at Eden Court, in Horden had to be demolished and the blaze left the neighbouring house smoke damaged.
The boy, who cannot be named because of his age, yesterday pleaded guilty to arson.
Prosecutor James Thomas told a youth court in Peterlee that firefighters were called to the estate, where the infamous Big Club once stood, at 6pm on March 11.
The house, built by Holystone Development, had been sealed up after it could not be sold because of the credit crunch.
Mr Thomas said the crew found the French doors and a window had earlier been forced open, and that bags of polystyrene balls had been used to start the fire.
The primary school pupil initially denied being involved when questioned by detectives, but was taken back to the station after admitting what he had done to his dad.
The building firm has since had the cost of the damage and demolition covered by insurers, but has had to pay a £2,500 excess.
Mitigating Alison Banks said the child did not realise the house would catch light and had fled in fear.
She told magistrates: “As you see he is tiny. He’s 11 years of age and he had just turned 11 when this offence was committed.
“The whole incident has been frightening, he has been terrified and he has been terrified of going to jail.
“Not only is there a knock-on effect of the property going up in flames, there’s the upset it has caused the property owner and distress it’s financially caused, but there’s also upset to his own family.”
Mrs Banks said that, were it not for the boy’s honesty, police would not have had the evidence to charge him.
Chairman of the bench William Brown said: “The sentencing options are quite limited, but then you are a very small child. You caused an awful lot of damage.”
The boy was given a six-month referral order and his father was ordered to pay £500 in compensation.
l A 12-year-old and a 13-year-old have denied arson and are due to stand trial next month.