Walkerburn Bowling Club arsonist spared prison sentence

Damage caused to Walkerburn Bowling Club by Sam Williams.
Damage caused to Walkerburn Bowling Club by Sam Williams.

A man responsible for burning down a Borders bowling clubhouse, causing £67,000 worth of damage and destroying treasured artefacts and mementos, has been allowed to walk free from Selkirk Sheriff Court.

Sam Williams, 28, set fire to the Walkerburn Bowling Club premises on the morning of December 19 using a bottle of white spirit he bought at 6am from a local shop.

Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser said Williams immediately telephoned the police to say he had set the building on fire.

He explained that the clubhouse had just been upgraded and that made the incident even more distressing for members, as well as irreplaceable mementos having been destroyed.

Mr Fraser said: “The building was insured, and that is where the £67,000 figure comes in.

“There will be costs for the site clearance which will increase the cost to the club.

“The accused bought some white spirit from a local shop just before 6am. It was a 50ml bottle.

“The lady knew him well and, as he did not have the full money, allowed him to have it owing 26p and he would pay it at a later date.

“He phoned the police and said he had done it.”

Defence lawyer Sophie Russell said that Williams had made efforts despite his distressed state at the time to ensure no one was in the premises.

She added: “The intention at first was to cause harm to himself.”

Ms Russell urged the sheriff to follow the recommendation in a criminal justice social work report as it was supported by a psychiatric assessment.

Williams, of Park Avenue, Walkerburn, pleaded guilty on indictment to culpably and recklessly setting fire to Walkerburn Bowling Club on December 19.

Sheriff Peter Paterson said if he had been charged with wilfully setting fire to the clubhouse then the court would have no alternative to impose a custodial sentence.

Instead, Williams was given a community payback order involving two years’ supervision and 200 hours’ unpaid work as an alternative to custody.

Sheriff Paterson told Williams: “It will be obvious to you the distress and upset your actions have caused.”