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'Disgraceful' fire youth gets two years

A youth has been given a two-year detention and training order after he admitted causing a fire that killed three horses.  The victims' owners are now urging other horse owners to take measures against fire.

Prize-winning Shetland ponies Earlswood Ellen and Ugieband Marina and the Irish Thoroughbred/ Connemara horse Brother Benedict died in the blazing stables last year, devastating Cheshire-based owners Elizabeth and David Gray.

Jake Ashley Pollitt, 16, of Elton, Cheshire, was sentenced on 1 June at Chester Crown Court after he admitted accidentally setting a hay bale alight while playing with matches in the stable to impress his friends last November. He will spend one year in custody for the offence.

The court heard how Pollitt thought he had extinguished the fire but as he and three others walked away, they realised the stable was alight.  They fled and within hours Pollitt had also burgled a house in Helsby, Cheshire, taking keys for a Vauxhall Corsa, which he crashed, the court was told.

After seeing photographs of the fire's aftermath, Judge Elgan Edwards described Pollitt's behaviour as "disgraceful".  He added: "You had seen at least one horse in that stable which was ablaze, but you did nothing to try to remedy your actions. Quite the contrary - you proceeded to commit other offences of burglary and the aggravated taking of a car."  Mrs Gray said that she would never forgive Pollitt and the other three youths for "the fright and terror" that the horses experienced.

The Grays have moved to a new stable and taken on fire victim Ellen's niece and daughter, Esta and Ella. They also have a new horse called Rosie.

The couple is encouraging stable owners to take precautions through Cheshire Fire Service and the British Horse Society's Stable Safe scheme. Under the scheme, owners give details of the stable layout, draw a plan of the area and state where horses can be released in the event of the fire. This gives emergency services vital information.

Horse owner and Cheshire fireman Paul Morris is one of only a few UK fire-fighters to run the scheme.

He said: "We file [the information] and give them a copy to display in the stable. It gives us details that make our job a lot easier, such as the location of the nearest fire hydrant and where the horses' headcollars are kept."  Mr Morris also advises owners to fit remote smoke alarms that detect fire without frightening horses.

Mrs Gray added: "The more people who are made aware of [the scheme] the better. If it can just save one horse's life, it's worth doing."

For more information on Stable Safe, e-mail stablesafe@cheshirefire.co.uk

Source:  Horse & Hound 9 June 2005


See also Riding Safely News November & December 2004, January & February 2005 and March & April 2005 for previous details. 


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