No detention for boys who 'risked passengers lives'
By Nick Lakeman
TWO teen vandals who blew up a bridge above a railway line and brought power lines crashing down on a train have been spared juvenile detention.

The 13-year-olds from Runcorn - who cannot be legally named - each pleaded guilty to three offences committed on two consecutive nights in April.

Warrington Crown Court heard this morning (Wednesday, October 18) how lives had been risked and £300,000 damage caused by the pair's 'recklessness'.

At 8pm on April 18 the driver of a Liverpool to London train was forced to slow because signals at Halton Junction had been spray painted over.

As he approached he saw electricity 'arching' from the live rail and as he screeched to a halt there was a 'bang and a flash' and the overhead cable came crashing down on top of the carriages.

He and terrified passengers were trapped for three hours until it was safe to be evacuated.

Investigators found a length of electrical flex thrown over the overhead lines with the end attached to a stanchion holding the power-lines up.

Driver Stuart Hammond described it as 'the most dangerous thing' he had ever seen.

John Oates, prosecuting said it was lucky reports of the damaged signals had forced trains to slow down otherwise a more serious accident could have occurred.

The night after at 6.30pm residents heard a mammoth explosion and saw slabs of concrete from the busway bridge that crosses the track hurled through the air.

The line was closed and the area sealed off.

Investigators found once again that electrical cable had been thrown onto the live rail causing a bolt of electricity to leap back up to the busway bridge, exploding it.

The boys aroused suspicion after people gossiping about the incidents thought they seemed amused by the vandalism.

Boy A went home and told his mum and she reported it to the police.

But when he was interviewed he denied it, insolently accused the police of wasting his time, the court heard.

Boy B said it was his friend who had thrown the cable over the line the first time but admitted spray painting over the signals.

He said the night after they found another piece of cable and dragged it up the embankment to the top of the bridge whereupon Boy A had dangled it over.

An electric shock blew him off his feet and he dropped the wire, causing the explosion.

The blast caused £1035 damage to gas pipes and cost Halton Council £10,000 in repairs.

Estimated costs to the railway were £86,000 for the first incident and £95,000 for the second.

The losses to the trapped passengers, their companies and those inconveniences by the line closures were incalculable.

David Ackerley, defending, said Boy A had never considered the outcome of his actions' until on the second occasion a large section of the bridge they were standing on exploded'.

He added the boys had been unaware of the damage and disruption they had caused on the first night because a signalman had chased them away.

Robert Golinski, defending, said Boy B was full of horror and remorse' at what he had done, had ditched friends who led him astray and was benefiting from a more settled family life.

Both argued that custodial sentences should not be imposed because neither boy was a persistent offender' - although A had several police warnings and reprimands and B had been cautioned for throwing eggs last Halloween - or had intended to endanger lives.

Sentencing them, Judge Roger Dutton told them they were lucky to be standing in the dock at all.

"Messing around with power-lines for kicks is a sure way if getting yourselves and others killed," he said.

Boy A was given a two-year supervision order rather than a detention and training order due to the six months he had already spent on remand since his arrest.

Boy B will have a referral order imposed on him by Halton Youth Court on the judge's recommendation.

2:21pm Wednesday 18th October 2006

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