Havering student guilty of burning schoolgirl’s hair

A HAVERING student who set fire to a schoolgirl’s hair after befriending her on Facebook was spared jail today (Monday December 7).

Adrian Lionel, 18, ignited the pretty youngster’s locks with a cigarette lighter after bumping into her outside Barking tube station in east London.

The girl, who cannot be named, was left bald after the few clumps of hair remaining on her head were shaved off.

She also suffered injuries to her fingertips as she desperately tried to pat down the flames.

Callous Lionel, who knew the girl from school before contacting her on the social networking website, also tried to extinguish the fire.

Commuter Richard Samuels was commended for saving the girl from further injury by dousing her with water from a nearby florist’s stall.

The girl has since had to wear a wig and has been subjected to cruel taunts by school bullies following the attack on April 9 this year.

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But Judge David Radford suspended Lionel’s nine-month term in a young offenders’ institution for two years.

Prosecutors had accepted Lionel “unintentionally” set the girl’s hair ablaze after he admitted a lesser charge of actual bodily harm last month.

“You did finally plead guilty on the day of trial and it is accepted that this was reckless behaviour by you and not an intentional assault,” said the judge.

“You did make immediate efforts to extinguish the fire.

“But it is not to your credit that you didn’t stay around to acknowledge responsibility for what you had done.”

Mr Samuels received a Sheriff of Greater London commendation and a �250 reward for his quick thinking at the scene.

Lionel, a business studies student at Havering College of Further and Higher Education in the Ardleigh Green campus, in Hornchurch, has a string of previous convictions including robbery and violent disorder.

He was ordered to pay the girl �2,250 compensation, obey 18 months’ supervision, perform 150 hours of unpaid work and observe a four-month night-time curfew.

Lionel struck after meeting the girl and two of her friends at a bus stop close to Barking underground station.

Prosecutor Fer Chinner said: “The defendant was known to the girls but didn’t know them very well.

“They were Facebook friends and had been at a previous school together.

“She describes feeling somebody patting her head – that was the defendant.

“She then says she felt a heat on her head and then realised her hair was on fire.

“It seems that Mr Lionel was trying to pat the flames with his hand.

“The girl then in a panic starts running back into the station and a passer-by, a Mr Richard Samuels, goes to the local florist stall, grabs a vase, gets rid of the flowers and throws the water over the girl.

“The water causes the flames to extinguish but it also makes the floor slippery and she falls.

“There are clumps of hair on the floor which are gathered up.”

In addition to the intense pain and discomfort she also suffered the embarrassment of having her beloved long locks shaved off, the court heard.

“It had taken her many, many years to grow it that long,” said Miss Chinner.

“She also describes to me the stress of having to have her head shaved.

“There are clumps of hair missing before she gets her head shaved.

“There are burns to her head and burns to her fingertips and burns to her neck as well.”

The girl’s family have spent hundreds of pounds on wigs for the youngster who has become the victim of cruel bullying.

“She is experiencing some taunts about the incident on the school bus,” said Miss Chinner.

Lionel claimed he was testing his lighter and had not intended to ignite the girl’s hair.

“It was not a prank,” said his barrister Jacob Edwards.

“The cigarette lighter was running low on fuel.

“Mr Lionel didn’t know whether it would be able to light at all.”

Lionel, of Hulse Avenue, Barking, admitted actual bodily harm.

A charge of unlawful wounding will remain on his court file.