A CHILDREN'S home had to be evacuated when a schoolboy arsonist started a fire, York Youth Court heard.

Flames reached up to a bedroom window in the building about half-an-hour after midnight.

The court heard that the schoolboy and another child had been smoking near timber sheds and wheelie bins outside the building an hour after the boy's bedtime.

Jane Chadwick, prosecuting, said that one of the two had wrapped a kitchen roll round the plug of a refrigerator and lit it. The boy returned to the home and told staff: "Look, there's a fire," and they evacuated the building.

The blaze, on September 15, caused £1,970 damage, wrecking the sheds, wheelie bins and the refrigerator.

The schoolboy, who is under 16, denied a charge of arson and was convicted at a trial last month. He asked for an offence of causing £300 criminal damage to a car by kicking it to be taken into consideration. A second boy was acquitted at the arson trial.

When the arsonist returned to court for sentence, his solicitor, Craig Sutcliffe, said he continued to deny that he had instigated the fire, but accepted that he should have alerted the home's staff earlier.

Youth justices said their hands were tied because the boy was on a three-year supervision order from York Crown Court for serious offences. They gave him the maximum attendance centre order of 24 hours. They did not order compensation after hearing that he is already paying the home for other damage.

Mr Sutcliffe said the boy was responding to supervision, though he was still suffering the consequences of his offences. Earlier in the year, four men with baseball bats had attacked him in the city centre, and he had managed to escape after suffering a single blow to his leg. His mother had had to leave York and could only see him every fortnight.

The boy was getting regular education and had started an unpaid job with animals. The damage to the car occurred when he kicked out after staff stopped him going on a day out. A social worker from the home told the court that though the boy was up outside after his bedtime, he was on the premises, and staff did allow children to stay up to watch videos or a film if their behaviour warranted it.

Updated: 11:34 Wednesday, May 21, 2003