School fire ‘payback’

A TEENAGER set fire to lockers at St Joseph’s College before trying to blow up a tractor as “payback” to the school, a court has heard.

Michael Clarke, 18, pleaded guilty to arson and trespass when he faced Mildura Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

He was remanded in custody until December when a magistrate will decide whether the charges should be heard in a higher court.

Magistrate Gerard Lethbridge said the question of public safety had to be taken into account.

The court heard that on September 30 about 9.45pm, Clarke and his partner went to the Twelfth Street school.

He walked around the school and set fire to 13 lockers, using an aerosol can and a lighter to damage them and their contents, the court heard.

Clarke then set fire to timber sheeting stored on the school grounds.

The court was told Clarke removed the fuel cap of a tractor and placed newspaper in the fuel tank to try, in his words, “to blow up the tractor”.

He later also told police he had hoped to steal a car and drive it into the school to cause more damage.

The school estimated his rampage caused more than $15,000 damage.

He was captured on CCTV and later arrested by police when he made full admissions, the court heard. 

Clarke said he did it as “payback” because his friend said she was bullied while attending the school and nothing was done about it.

“I wonder whether this is something that needs to go to the County Court,” Mr Lethbridge said.

“There’s a real issue here about public safety.”

Mr Lethbridge adjourned he matter until December 9 when it will be considered whether the matter needs to go to a higher court.

He requested that a psychiatrist’s report was completed in the meantime. 

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