Not guilty deckchairs plea

A SIDMOUTH man has pleaded not guilty to setting fire to deckchairs on Sidmouth beach.

Andrew Gillan, 25, of Lawn Vista, pleaded not guilty to arson before Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court on Friday.

It is alleged that he, Kevin Briggs and Marlon Jenkins set fire to deckchairs belonging to Tom Griffiths and valued at �1,400 on the beach on July 4, 2009.

Judge Cottle adjourned the case for trial, expressing disbelief that such a matter had been brought to crown court.

“This is not what we’re here for,” said the judge. “It’s a complete waste of taxpayers’ money to have cases like this heard here.”

He was told that the defendants had opted to bring it to crown court.

“Then by their selection they have successfully raised the stakes and can expect the sort of punishment the crown court can give out,” he said.

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Gillan, also known as Howitt, was then brought up on an unrelated charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He pleaded guilty.

It is alleged the assault took place in Sidmouth High Street on November 27. It involved a bottle and left the 16-year-old victim with bruising and swelling.

Howitt, who the court heard suffers from mental health issues, was released on bail for a pre-sentence report to be prepared. Judge Cottle said: “This was a particularly nasty assault and you must expect to get a custodial sentence for that.”