A MAN who helped hatch a plan to destroy Canford Heath by fire has been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

Robin Spinks, 22, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson on the evening of March 25 this year.

A judge told him the heath would take years to recover – and that if the fire had spread, the consequences did “not bear thinking about”.

Handing down sentence, Judge John Harrow told him: “You were not suffering from a mental disorder. You must take the full consequences of what you planned”.

A teenage girl companion who was 15 at the time and cannot be identified for legal reasons, received a 10-month referral order at Poole Youth Court and was ordered to pay £780 compensation.

Proceedings against another teenage girl were discontinued.

Prosecutor Simon Jones told Bournemouth Crown Court that Spinks had sought revenge after receiving a warning from police earlier in the day for riding his trials motorbike on the heath.

Former carpet fitter Spinks, of Belben Road, Poole, filled two Lucozade bottles with petrol from his motorbike and went to the heath with the teenagers intending to start a fire said Mr Jones.

However Spinks “backed out at the very last minute”, leaving the others to light the fire, the court heard.

Defending Spinks, Robert Grey described Spinks as a “very immature” individual who would struggle in prison.

Mr Grey said: “He is older than the 15-year-old co-defendant who did set fire to the land but he’s very immature. He changed his mind and turned back. He is very sorry about what happened.”

Spinks had no previous arson offences on his record and the risk of his re-offending was low now that he had moved in with his mother added Mr Grey.

Judge Harrow said: “It was your idea, you set it up. The heath will probably take years to recover. It could have endangered the lives of people walking on the heath. It is quite close to a housing estate. What if the fire had spread there? It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

He made no order for compensation or prosecution costs.

Speaking later Insp Adrian King, North Poole section commander, said that heath fires can have “very serious consequences”.

He added: “It sends out a clear signal that people who commit offences of arson on the heath stand a chance of it being taken very seriously by the court.”

Canford Heath was targeted by arsonists back in 2006. They were responsible for starting a massive heath fire which attracted the attention of media as far away as Australia and destroyed one and a half hectares of heath.

Deputy chief fire officer Nigel Williams said: “The judge has reflected the seriousness of the offences committed.

“Arson is a destructive and dangerous act which can threaten lives and property and the environment, as in this case.

“This sends out a strong message to those who consider fire-starting and will hopefully act as a deterrent to others.”