ONE of Britain’s most iconic castles was targeted in a vandalism attack in which historic walls were ripped apart and medieval architecture thrown down a well, a court heard yesterday.
Irreplaceable stonework dating back 2,500 years was targeted by two teenagers who then revelled in the destruction by posting pictures on the Polish equivalent of Facebook.
Scarborough Castle and its Roman signal station have withstood four sieges and the 1914 German bombardment of the resort. But the 12th century monument is now being invaded on an “almost nightly basis” by gangs of youths, York Crown Court heard yesterday.
The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, warned if the nation’s ancient monuments continue to be targeted, jail sentences would have to be handed out.
However, defendants Norbert Borowicz and Matt Kazimierz Lucas Fractowiek, both 18, who are of Polish origin but live in Scarborough, escaped with community services orders requiring them to carry out unpaid work.
Borowicz, of Aberdeen Place, and Fractowiek, of St Mary’s Walk, admitted causing £5,000 of criminal damage.
Philip Evans, prosecuting, said the castle had been described by English Heritage, which runs the site that is visited by 60,000 people each year, as a “nationally important monument”.
He added: “The castle is an iconic structure for the people of Scarborough.”
The court heard that custodian Peter Bleach secured the site at 6.45pm on May 12 last year but returned the next morning to discover the damage, mainly to the Roman signal station and later-built chapel.
Judge Ashurst sentenced the teenagers to 12-month community service orders. Borowicz was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, and Fractowiek was told to do 40 hours.
Patricia Doherty, for Fractowiek, claimed he had a “very limited role” in the damage. Taryn Turner, defending Borowicz, said he felt “thoroughly ashamed”.
The judge said while many would feel a custodial sentence should be passed for vandalising monuments, the law dictated criminal damage of less than £5,000 had to be dealt with by magistrates. He added that a maximum sentence of three months can only be passed for the “worst possible” cases. The judge told the defendants he was satisfied they were “genuinely sorry”.
But he added: “If people carry out acts of vandalism when they are there then sooner or later the courts may have to take a harder line and consider short custodial sentences. But it is important you do not pay for the mindless acts of other young people. I express considerable sympathy for the authorities who have a very difficult to maintain security of important public buildings and monuments at a time their budgets are being put under strict control. “
After the hearing, Mr Bleach, who has since left English Heritage, said the castle’s stonework is “priceless”, and added: ““It’s like burning the Mona Lisa. The Roman ruin is not quite the same and never will be again – even though it’s been extremely well patched up.”
He claimed the teenagers could have been recruited to carry out a metal theft when the vandalism happened, but English Heritage stressed there was no evidence to suggest that.