A TEENAGER who started a fire which caused the death of a schoolgirl has been given a two-year youth rehabilitation order.

The 18-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, started the fire after throwing a lit Zippo lighter onto a bed before leaving the house.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the downstairs fire quickly engulfed the house with thick smoke, trapping the girl in an upstairs bedroom.

The youngster perished as a result of the fire at her home in Darlington, despite frantic efforts to rescue her from the burning property.

Jamie Hill QC, prosecuting, said: “She was found in a wardrobe hiding under clothing – she wasn’t breathing. The Great North Air Ambulance Service managed to resuscitate her but she never regained consciousness.

“She was taken to James Cook University Hospital and then transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary but sadly, after four days on a ventilator, she died.”

The court heard how the teenager was offered the chance to take part in a fire safety course but failed to engage with it which resulted in a criminal prosecution being started.

Mr Hill added: "He (the defendant) said he had a Zippo lighter and said, 'I was lighting a cigarette with it, I didn't close it and threw it onto the bed and I think that is what caused it'."

She died in the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, after being rescued from the property in December 2018.

The teenager pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to gross negligence when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court.

The court heard how the child's death had a devastating impact on her entire family.

John Elvidge QC, in mitigation, said the teenager had shown remorse immediately and the young girl's mother didn't wish for the defendant to be imprisoned.

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, sentenced the teenager to a two-year youth rehabilitation order.

The judge accepted that the teenager didn't anticipate the fatal outcome of throwing the lighter onto the bed.

He said: "You had clearly been in a bad mood all day and you threw an open lighter on the bed which had been extinguished, that lighter which was still alight set fire to the bedding.

"At first it smouldered but then as the heat built up it burst into flames."