Teen who threw firework at Royal Liver Building spared jail

21 August 2020, 14:10

The Royal Liver Building (L) lit up by red, white and blue lights to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day
The Royal Liver Building (L) lit up by red, white and blue lights to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

A teenager who caused almost £30,000 worth of damage to the Royal Liver Building after throwing a firework during Premier League celebrations has avoided jail.

Matthew Egglesden, 19, of Scarisbrick in Lancashire, was given a sentence of 12 months detention, suspended for 18 months, at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday, after he admitted arson intending to destroy or damage the building or being reckless at doing so.

He was also ordered to pay £6,183 compensation and carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

The blaze started when a firework hit a first-floor balcony as thousands of fans gathered at Pier Head in Liverpool to mark the club becoming champions of England for the first time in 30 years.

The court heard Egglesden was reported to police by his father, who saw his image online following the incident on June 26.

Sentencing him, Judge Andrew Menary QC said: "This was utterly outrageous and shameful behaviour by everybody involved.

Matthew Egglesden causedalmost £30,000 worth of damage to the Royal Liver Building
Matthew Egglesden causedalmost £30,000 worth of damage to the Royal Liver Building. Picture: PA

"Such vandalism brings shame to Liverpool Football Club, impacts the reputation of the city worldwide and, because of your involvement, it brings utter shame on you.

"There may have been stupid supporters cheering your actions that night but I am sure the vast majority of Liverpool supporters in the city and worldwide will be appalled by your actions."

Chris Taylor, prosecuting, said large crowds had gathered on the Pier Head for celebrations, despite warnings from Merseyside Police and local authorities for them to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, police inspector Kim Carter said she was told fireworks were being thrown at the building, where Everton Football Club has its headquarters, because fans had taken offence that it was lit up blue.

But the landmark was actually lit up red, white and blue to mark Armed Forces Day, the court was told.

Fire crews were called to the scene at about 10.20pm after flames were seen on the first floor balcony, Mr Taylor said.

The court heard firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze but had to withdraw as further fireworks were being thrown at them.

Damage was caused to artificial grass and decking on a balcony area used for private functions, the court was told.

Mr Taylor said £29,506 worth of repairs, including work by specialist glaziers, masons and roofers, had been carried out and there had been a cost of £3,183 to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

Footage of the defendant firing the powerful rocket, which was played in court, was widely shared on social media, and his father confronted him after seeing it on the Liverpool Echo website, and then reported it to the police, Mr Taylor said.

Simon Driver, defending, said Egglesden was of previous good character and was supported by his family and employer, who he worked for as an apprentice.

He said the defendant had "become the face of all that was wrong that night" and had been targeted on social media.

"It's his fault, but all of this has amounted to a very heavy burden for a 19-year-old of previous good character and in some way has operated as punishment in itself," he said.

Judge Menary said there could be no doubt Egglesden deliberately fired the rocket at the Liver Building.

He said: "I have no doubt you did that because you and others there that night knew it was a building associated with your rival team Everton FC."

Egglesden, whose parents and other family members were in court with him, was also ordered to carry out 15 hours of rehabilitation activity and was given a curfew between 8pm and 6am for three months.