More anger over Hastings pier arson decision

THE decision not to charge anyone with the Hastings Pier fire has been slammed by the body which oversees the police.

Six weeks ago, it emerged that two St Leonards teenagers arrested just hours after the blaze would not face any action, to the immense frustration of the community.

At the time, Sussex Police made it clear that it was the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who felt there was not enough evidence to prosecute the pair and police sources were left dumbfounded by the decision.

And the CPS came in for further criticism at a meeting of the Sussex Police Authority last week. Cllr Godfrey Daniel said: “I have to say I am not happy with the role of the CPS. They seem to have been judge and jury in effect - I would have preferred to have seen it come to court and let justice take its course.”

Quoting the CPS statement which said there was evidence the suspects were on the pier at the time and that the fire was started deliberately, Cllr Daniel said many in Hastings and St Leonards would see it as “perverse” not to bring a prosecution. And he suggested that if a witness statement about the impact of the crime on all those affected was taken, it would be “longer than most books in the universe,”.

He said it was important to underline that it was a CPS rather than a police decision not to prosecute and expressed hopes the case might be looked at again in the future.

His views were echoed by Carole Shaves JP, the SPA deputy chairman. She said officers had done “absolutely everything they could do” to present a case to the CPS and warned: “I think this will dent public confidence.”

She also questioned what impact it would have on Kevin Pearson, who grabbed one of the suspects while out walking his dog. “I wonder if he would do that again,” she asked. “I think that people think something is going to happen when people have been caught as it were red-handed.”