Party yobs admit torching stolen car

TWO partygoers who were filmed celebrating after torching a family’s car have been locked up.

Thomas Hodgson, 19, and Ben Gibson, 20, had been binge-drinking and taking drugs when they and another man took a family’s £2,000 Renault Clio during an 18th birthday party.

The pair were passengers when the car was driven around Billingham before it crashed into a fence and it ended up on a field at Bede Sixth Form College in the town.

A member of the public who saw three men standing close to the car took out his camera as one man threw liquid over the car while the other two watched.

Prosecutor David Crooke said: “They walked away and then gave each other the American high five congratulations.”

Hodgson and Gibson were arrested and they said that the car was set on fire to destroy evidence, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Mr Crooke added that Gibson said someone poured petrol over the car, which was a write-off, and he suggested that it might have been Hodgson.

Mr Crooke said: “I can’t say whether the victim has received any compensation from insurance.”

Richard Herrmann, mitigating for Hodgson, said that he had been an in-patient at St Luke’s Hospital, Middlesbrough, for the past fortnight and a pre-sentence report recommended alcohol and mental health treatment.

Paul Abrahams, mitigating for Gibson, said he had lost his job over the offences to which he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Peter Fox QC, told the pair there was no way to avoid an immediate custodial sentence.

The judge added: “You Hodgson stole the keys to the family car of the family in whose home you were guests, and with a couple of others who included you Gibson, you went and took that car, were both driven around Billingham in it until it crashed, and then you set it alight.

“And you two were then seen celebrating what you had done.

“I’ve no doubt that neither of you would have done anything like this had you not participated in alcohol and drugs as well, it’s a lethal combination, but it does not offer either of you the slightest excuse.”

Hodgson, of Windlestone Road, Billingham, was sent to a young offenders’ institution for two years, and Gibson, of Rievaulx Avenue, Billingham, for nine months after they both pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking and arson on November 26 last year.

They were both also disqualified from driving for 12 months.