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19 August 2019, 16:06 | Updated: 19 August 2019, 16:12
Three drunk and "mindless" youths have been handed referral orders after deliberately trashing a model railway exhibition worth £30,000.
The schoolboys, along with a fourth defendant, shared a bottle of vodka as part of a "pre-exam night out" before going on a 4am "rampage" and destroying the exhibition, a court heard.
Members of the Market Deeping Model Railway Club said a "life's work" had been destroyed during the vandalism on May 18 - with some displays taking years to complete.
The 16 year-old defendants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had decided to play football in the gym at the Stamford Welland Academy and continued their game despite displays being destroyed.
Lincoln Youth Court was told the youths then deliberately pushed tables over and threw parts of displays at the wall in what they themselves described as an act of "stupidity".
After police were called due to a notification from the school's alarm system, the youths were eventually found in the school toilets and arrested.
At court on Monday, the four boys admitted criminal damage.
Three of the youths were handed 12 month referral orders and their parents were also ordered to pay £500 in compensation.
A fourth boy, who also appeared in court, was told he would be sentenced on September 2.
More than £107,000 has been raised by members of the public to repair the exhibitions - to which the club chairman told the PA News Agency he was "overwhelmed".
Singer Sir Rod Stewart - a long-standing model rail enthusiast - personally donated £10,000 to the club after hearing about the vandalism.
At the sentencing hearing, Chairman of the bench of magistrates, John Lock, told the youths:
"In nearly 20 years on the bench, I cannot recall such a case as this, of mindless, wanton destruction. It beggars belief.
In the dead of night, when people are in their beds in the main, you were out playing football, which is extraordinary at that time of night.
You came across the displays and models, all of you... and not content with kicking a ball, you then went on a rampage. The mindlessness comes shining through."
Despite the damage caused, the magistrates decided not to send the boys to custody.
Mr Lock continued:
"It would not be right to put you into custody. You have all got good futures and it is right that you make best use of them.
There will be a referral order. It will last for 12 months, which is the longest you can make an order for - there would be a wish that you could make it longer, but you can't.
Nothing can compensate for what you did that night".
Opening the case against the youths, prosecutor Shelley Wilson said the four boys had made admissions in interviews about the damage.
Speaking of one of the boys, Ms Wilson said:
"He said he went in to play football and to sleep.
They saw the displays but continued to play. He claimed (the damage) was accidental.
He then said he pushed over a few displays and caused some damage, as did the others."
The court heard how one model railway enthusiast from St Neots Model Railway Club, John Kneeshaw, who had contributed to the exhibition, had been on the receiving end of £15,000 worth of damage.
One of Mr Kneeshaw's displays, which was around 20ft long, 12ft deep and 6ft wide, was valued at around £5,000 - with all of his models taking 20-25 years to build in what he described as a "labour of love".
Reading a statement by Mr Kneeshaw to the court, Ms Wilson said:
"You can't just buy them, they are all made by me and are unique.
I am in total shock as to what has happened and why. The cost emotionally is very high - this is years of work and I do not understand why anyone would want to do this.
It is truly devastating. It had been systematically destroyed by whoever had done it - the damage is not repairable or replaceable."
One of the boys' defence solicitors, Lynford Fuller, said they were "in drink", which may have "impaired their judgment".
The youths apologised for their behaviour, while their parents said they were "ashamed" and "disappointed".