FOUR teenage boys arrested yesterday (Thursday, March 13) for climbing around 300ft up a North-East television mast have been branded ‘stupid’ by police.

Officers swooped on the homes of the youngsters after video footage of the dangerous prank on Pontop Pike at Dipton, near Stanley, County Durham, was posted on social networking website, Facebook.

The short film shot on Monday evening shows the boys in high spirits on one of the platforms, high above the ground, smoking a cigarette as the dare each other to go up to the next level.

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The film ends as they appear to start climbing.

As well as risking their lives by climbing so high, police have said the radiation they exposed themselves to could affect their fertility and lead to health problems, such as cancer, in the future.

Sergeant Dave Clarke said: “It is pure stupidity. It beggars belief.

“They are putting their own lives in danger, not just by climbing to high levels without any safety equipment, but there are high levels of radiation emitting from the telecommunications equipment of the mast.

“Despite the acute dangers at the time of the climbing, there could be complications later in life through fertility and other health problems such as the risk of cancerous tumours.”

Police have arrested a 13-year-old, two boys aged 15, and a 17-year-old on suspicion of criminal damage because razor wire around the compound was cut.

The four have been bailed pending further inquiries while police consider what action to take.

Sgt Clarke urged parents in the area to reiterate the warning to their children and get the message across.

He said: “These boys are all someone’s son and their families could have been getting that knock on the door to say they have been killed by climbing the mast.”

Acting Inspector Michael McGowan urged young people not to imitate the boys who have been arrested.

He said: “This reckless and highly dangerous act has put their lives in danger.

“Climbing an operational radio transmitting structure is extremely dangerous.

“It is very likely that they have been exposed to radio frequency energy fields well in excess of safety guideline levels. These fields have the potential to harm internal organs.

“It is very important that other people do not try to copy this act and expose themselves to danger.”

The mast was built in 1953 so people in the region could watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II live on television.

Peter Wingate-Saul, community relations manager for Arqiva, a telecommunications company, which owns the mast, said: “Arqiva cannot comment on an ongoing police investigation.

“However, we take this issue very seriously and we want to again highlight to the public that climbing an operational radio transmitting structure is extremely dangerous.”