Two teenagers have been given a 12-month Referral Order after pleading guilty to arson following a fire at Apsley’s Frogmore Paper Mill.
Both boys, aged 15 and from Hemel Hempstead, appeared for sentencing yesterday (Wednesday 22 March) at St Albans Youth Court having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
A Referral Order involves meeting with a Youth Offender Panel and taking part in activities that aim to give back to the community and help prevent future offending. Twelve months is the maximum length that the order can run for.
The boys were also ordered to each pay £600 in costs and a victim surcharge of £21 each.
Firefighters were called to the historic site in Fourdrinier Way on the afternoon of Saturday 22 January 2022 where the building was well alight. Officers attended to help with road closures.
Significant damage was caused to the site’s visitor centre and an arson investigation was subsequently launched.
It was discovered that the blaze started because the boys had used a lighter to start a fire, which quickly got out of control.
Police investigator Deborah Newsham, from the Dacorum Local Crime Unit, said: ‘I hope that any young person who is considering playing with fire sees this case and thinks twice.
‘This incident demonstrates the consequences of reckless behaviour and although I know the boys involved never meant to cause such devastation, they had no thought for what might happen when they started the fire and how quickly the flames would spread.
‘The fire, which was battled by dozens of firefighters, destroyed precious artwork and historic documents from the famous paper mill, as well as causing millions of pounds worth of damage. Thankfully no one was injured in the fire.’
Elena Lewendon, Chief Executive Officer of the Apsley Paper Trail Trust, said: ‘We lost heritage that night that can never be replaced. Hundreds of artefacts were burnt beyond repair and the mill has now been closed for more than a year.
‘It will be a long road ahead for the charity, but we won’t stop our efforts to fundraise so that we can restore and rebuild Frogmore Mill, the oldest mechanised paper mill in the world and an internationally significant heritage site. Despite suffering such a huge loss, we are determined to re-build and re-open as soon as we can and are now planning a community and environment focused new museum, offering sustainable events and activities for all ages and abilities.
‘None of this would be possible without the quick response of Herts Fire and Rescue Service on the night of the fire, and the subsequent support of our local community, businesses, friends and families over the last 12 months. Special thanks to the team of police officers and detectives who worked so hard to make sure those responsible were brought to justice. We can now move on and look forward to building a bright, sustainable future for Frogmore.’