School boys plead not guilty to Leyland fire

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Five boys accused of starting a fire which caused more than £10 million of damage to a Leyland school have appeared at Preston Youth Court.

The boys, who can not be named for legal reasons, stood together in the dock as they entered not guilty pleas to the charges of arson with intent to endanger life and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

The youngsters, aged 11, 12, 13, 13 and 15, all from the Leyland area, spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and enter their not guilty pleas.

Their parents sat behind them in court as the case against the schoolboys was set out to Judge Jane Goodwin.

Fire broke out at Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College shortly after 4pm on Sunday September 1.

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze which quickly spread throughout the building.

Crews worked through the night to bring the flames under control.

More than 60 per cent of the school was destroyed and pupils were kept off school for two weeks while emergency plans were put into place.

A satellite school was then set up at Sir Tom Finney High School in Ribbleton, and the school’s 750 pupils were transported there on a daily basis.

Year seven, 10 and 11 pupils returned to the school site in Royal Avenue, Leyland, after two weeks but years eight and nine remained at the Ribbleton site until Christmas.

A complex of temporary classrooms, science and technology labs has now been built at the school to provide accommodation until the school can be rebuilt.

Judge Goodwin ruled the case was so serious the boys must be tried in the Crown Court - a decision kept for only the most serious of youth cases.

All five boys have been granted bail on the condition they do not associate with one another.

One of the boys has also been made the subject of a curfew between 7pm and 7am at the request of his mother.

The defendants will next appear at Preston Crown Court on February 18.