Mt Lawley fire sentence a surprise

A picture taken of the school after the fire was extinguished.
A picture taken of the school after the fire was extinguished.

Mel Smithin said she had expected the 16 and 17year-old boys to receive community service orders rather than the eight months incarceration handed down by Children’s Court President Denis Reynolds last week.

‘This is just going to affect their entire life now,’ she said. ‘Being sent to adult prison, it is just too big.’

The pair will be eligible for parole after serving four months of their eight-month sentence.

Judge Reynolds said in his sentencing that he took into account harsh conditions young offenders faced at Hakea Prison, the pair’s early guilty pleas, their age, lack of prior convictions and genuine remorse.

He said conditions at the prison, including extensive lockdowns, use of restraints and a lack of proper rehabilitation programs, made it an unsatisfactory place for juvenile offenders.

But he said the serious nature of the crime warranted imprisonment.

Judge Reynolds said the fire had destroyed more than the 100-year-old school buildings.

‘Many children and teachers would have been at the primary school for long enough to feel ownership of the place,’ he said.

‘They were left with a real sense of loss.’

A Mt Lawley resident and former student who did not want to be named said she was still saddened that the school had been destroyed.

‘Myself, and many former students, were deeply saddened when the school burnt down,’ she said.

‘The Mt Lawley Primary School community, past and present, is very close-knit. It is such a shame to hear that a 100-year-old building, with its heritage architecture and design, is gone forever.’

Ms Smithin said the fire had inadvertently brought the school community together.

‘I did not realise how important and what a focus it has, and I did not realise that until the fire,’ she said.

She said the school and students had ‘moved on’ from the fire and were now focused on rebuilding the school.

‘There is always a good thing that is in amongst a lot of bad things, we are going to be getting a really amazing new school,’ she said.