Teen boys convicted for causing fatal New Year's Eve fire; no punishment

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

Two teenage boys were convicted of causing a fatal fire on New Year’s Eve which took the life of two family members and injured two others. In convicting the teens, the court decided not to punish them beyond a hefty damages claim, following a recommendation from child protective services board RvdK that said that a punishment has no practical value to society, and would also not prevent similar incidents from occurring.

Fire broke out in the lobby of an Arnhem apartment building after the two boys set off fireworks, with the resulting explosion igniting a sofa. The four victims were found trapped in the elevator, with the 39-year-old father of the family and 4-year-old son dying of smoke inhalation.

The 36-year-old mother and 8-year-old daughter suffered smoke-related injuries. They recovered from their physical injuries, but were traumatized from the incident.

The court decided both boys, then 12 and 13 years old, were guilty even though only one of the two actually lit the firework which sparked the blaze. “At one point, one of the boys stuck a ground flower [firework] between the cushions of a sofa in the hall of the apartment building. He lit the ground flower and both boys looked at it as it went off,” a statement from the court said.

The boys, also residents of the building, then lit more fireworks and left, entering an elevator. “From the ground flower came another flame, which eventually grew into a large fire,” the court explained.

Though the public prosecution argued that the there was intent, the court disagreed saying that while the children were guilty due to acting “carelessly and inattentively,” it was not their intention to start a fire.

Their actions were down to them being children, the court determined, and noted neither had a criminal record, known social problems, or issues with aggression prior to the incident. “The impact of the fire and its consequences on their lives is huge,” the court said. “All those involved, the next of kin as well as the boys and their parents, will have to live with this.”

The court also pointed out that the boys and their families have had to move because of the incident, and that only just recently were the children able to begin school coursework again.

The parents of the teens will have to pay 90 thousand euros in damages to the surviving family members as compensation for grief caused by the death of a loved one. The boys themselves would have been liable had they been at least 14 at the time of the incident.