Sheriff says he came close to imposing custodial sentences

THREE teenagers who torched a car in Wick have escaped custodial sentences.
Brett Webster (16) of Harrow Terrace and Andrew Beresford (18) formerly of Seaforth Avenue, Wick, but now living in Golspie, and Rachel Jones (20) of Roxburgh Road, Wick, all received unpaid community service terms when they appeared for sentence at Wick Sheriff Court today.
Sheriff Andrew Berry condemned their actions which had put others and themselves at risk, as “extremely foolish and dangerous”.
The sheriff added that he had come “very close” to passing custodial sentences.
Webster and Beresford admitted having wilfully setting fire to Christopher Hendry’s car at the rear of his home in Wellington Street, Wick, in the early hours of March 4. Jones denied that charge but was found guilty after a trial. Mr Hendry’s £6,500 Seat Leon car was totally destroyed and a neighbouring vehicle belonging to his father, was damaged.
The court heard, previously, of how the trio planned the arson attack on Mr Hendry’S car at Jones’ home. Beresford and Webster went out and procured a can of diesel and the three made their way to the Hendry family home in Wellington Street.
The two male accused got down to setting the fire going on the second hand, £6,500 car parked at the rear in a back court, watched by Jones. They had difficulty at first, but succeeded, after using one of Beresford’s socks, The vehicle was a write-off and Mr Hendry’s father Ford Focus, parked close by, was damaged. The trio returned to the scene of the incident, later, claiming to be curious bystanders.
Mr Hendry woke to find his car going up in flames and raised the alarm. He told the court that he had been warned that Beresford was going to do damage to the car but had taken the threat “with a pinch of salt”.
Jones denied having been “a main player” in the affair but this was rejected by her two co-accused who said that she had taunted them that they “didn’t have the guts to do it”, and would probably ‘chicken out’. All three
Webster and Beresford started the fire and Jones watched them.
Asked why she had wanted the arson attack on Mr Hendry’s car, Webster said that Beresford “felt a bit in love” with Jones and resented the way that Mr Hendry had treated her when they were an item.
Jones was keen to “get it done”.
After Mr Hendry’s car was torched, the trio walked up the road “laughing, joking and giggling”.
Mr Barclay asked: “Was that because it was a job well done?”
Webster: “Possibly”.
He admitted he was fond of Rachel and agreed he would have done “anything Rachel had asked him to”.
Giving evidence, Jones denied getting involved in the fire-raising plot to get back at Christopher Hendry for badly treating her and two-timing her. She described the “laughing and giggling” evidence as “a complete fabrication”
In his final submission, however, Mr Barclay said that it was a matter of law. Jones was involved on an art and part basis, as if she had lit the fuse herself
Sheriff Andrew Berry who saw reports on all three accused heard from their solicitors.
Ross Gray for Webster said that he was currently engaged in a trades training course at Thurso. He was a first offender and added that if he received a custodial sentence, it would have negative influence on him.
Neil Wilson, for Beresford said that the accused had perhaps not realised just how serious an offence, it was, but it had been brought home to him as he was giving his evidence to the court and he appreciated the potential consequences that setting fire to a car near a house, could have had.
Alex Burn for Jones made the point that she had not been involved in the actual lighting of the fire but had to accept that, legally, she had acted in concert with her co-accused. Jones had got involved in the “extremely foolish act” which could have had serious consequences. The accused had tried to dissuade her two accomplices who had, however, given evidence to the effect that she had been searching for combustible material, at one point.
Mr Burn said that Jones, currently an equine student, had been the product of a home education and had lost a lot by not attending school where she would have mixed with her peers and not been isolated from social interaction.
Sentencing the accused, Sheriff Berry said that the community would doubtless be satisfied if the trio were never involved with each other again. They had created a substantial risk to themselves and others, by their behaviour.
He continued: “There would have been neighbours in the area that would have wondered what the community was coming to and wondered if they would come to harm if that sort thing happened again. There were the members of the fire service who have enough to do dealing with accidents without having to deal with deliberate incidents, caused by misguided people like you putting them at risk completely unnecessarily.”
The sheriff added: “I would like you to understand that I came close to imposing custodial sentences and it was not on the basis of tossing a coin and taking the best of three. “
Webster and Beresford each received unpaid community pay back orders of 180 hours. The figure in respect of Jones was fixed at 240 hours as, having gone to trial, she did not qualify for a sentence discount.
The sheriff added that he had decided not to impose compensation orders as that would prove complex if the relationship with Jones and Mr Hendry was ongoing.