A teenage sex offender who started a string of devastating wildfires in Aberdeen has been sentenced to nine months in detention.
At the city’s sheriff court yesterday, Ryan Smith accepted it was “lucky” no-one had been hurt and admitted there had been “a great deal of damage”.
The 19-year-old had earlier pled guilty to wilful fireraising at the Gramps nature reserve in the south of the city.
Smith is already serving three years in detention having been convicted at the High Court earlier this year of having sex with two teenage girls, a sexual assault and sending lewd photographs.
His latest offending came to light after the emergency services were forced to deal with a number of significant blazes at the nature reserve, as well as at the Nigg Bay Golf Club in Torry, between September 9 and 22 last year.
Fire teams were dispatched to incidents in the Gramps area 30 times in just 10 days, as areas of grass and moorland were repeatedly set alight.
Appliances were drafted in from fire stations across the city to stop the fires from spreading through the protected area, with firefighters using all-terrain vehicles and beaters to keep the flames under control.
The repeated blazes could often be seen sending smoke high into the sky above Aberdeen, but they came to an end on September 22 after police confirmed they had charged a teenager with wilful fire raising.
Smith was arrested just before 8pm that day after a member of the public spotted him in the area.
He was cautioned by police and when searched by officers was found to be carrying a large kitchen knife and two lighters in a bag.
During an earlier appearance, fiscal depute Katy Begg told the court Smith had been walking through the Gramps with a friend on September 9, when he lit the first fire of many.
“She was walking slightly ahead of him and she heard the sound of a lighter,” Ms Begg said.
“She turned and saw the accused running towards her but after challenging him they continued on the walk.
“He then kneeled to tie his shoelace and she again heard the sound of a lighter. She saw him setting fire to a bush.”
The court heard that in the following days Smith walked the same route time and again, setting fire to plants along the way.
His solicitor Peter Keene said yesterday: “There’s a great deal of damage been done here.
“Luckily, there was no danger to life. Smoke from one of the fires did cross a road and cause traffic problems, but nobody was hurt.”
Sheriff Morag McLaughlin sentenced Smith, of Northfield Place, to six months in detention for wilfully setting fires and a further three months for possession of a knife.