Pair could have caused a gas disaster in Lanark

A pair of vandals who could have destroyed a Lanark public building in a massive explosion have appeared for sentence at Lanark Sheriff Court.

Harry Smith Complex,  Lanark, scene of December's incident.
Harry Smith Complex, Lanark, scene of December's incident.

The court heard that the two set alight the bin store at the Harry Smith Complex on Thomas Telfer Avenue, unaware that there was a major gas main directly underneath it.

Only quick action by the fire service prevented a major incident the court heard as Scott Blything and William Davidson, both 24, faced sentence for the incident shortly after midnight on December 9 last year.

Although the fire was doused before gas was ignited, it caused £14,000 of damage to the council leisure centre and community meeting place, leading to its closure to the public for five days.

The duo were meant to have been sentenced on Thursday but Sheriff Robert Weir held his ruling over to Friday morning so that he could personally view CCTV footage of the incident.

Earlier Blything, of Braidfute, Lanark, and Davidson, of Overton Road, Netherburn, had pleaded guilty to having, while acting together “and with utter disregard of the consequences”, culpably and recklessly set fire to the bin shed, destroying it.

A further charge that he wilfully damaged one of the CCTV cameras around the centre by hitting it with a tennis racket he claimed to have found lying nearby was admitted by Davidson.

The defence solicitor acting for both men, Mr Archie Hill, repeatedly told the court that his clients’ actions could have had “very serious consequences” but argued that neither had any idea that there was a gas main underneath the bin store. He told Sheriff Weir: “They both thought of it as a prank and had no idea how serious the consequences could have been.” He stressed that, at the age of 24, Blything had no previous convictions at all and Davidson only one minor offence on his record.

Sheriff Weir said that, under current guidelines, a jail sentence for Blything, as a first offender, would be difficult to impose; Davidson too had a very limited record.

He instead sentenced both to a five month restriction of liberty order, impelling them to be in their homes between 8pm and 6am each night; both were electronically tagged.