Two men who deliberately started fires on farms across Sussex which caused more than £1 million in damage have been sentenced to prison.
Joshua Brinkley, 20, and Connor Luck, 21, set agricultural barns, farmland and haybales alight, causing extensive damage and disruption.
The estimated value of the total damage they caused has been calculated at just over £1.1 million.
New figures by NFU Mutual show the cost of farm fires shot up by 21% last year, to £83.5m.
Lewes Crown Court heard that on 29 August 2021, police were contacted to a large deliberate fire at two outbuildings in Lower Willingdon that contained cylinders and farm machinery.
On 2 November 2021, police assisted East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service with a large fire in a barn on farmland off the A26 at Beddingham.
The arsonists also set fire to hay bales at a vineyard in Rathfinny, Alfriston, on 4 November 2021, among numerous other incidents.
Investigations into each of the fires, which numbered eight in total, were carried out by officers and the causes were confirmed as arson.
Following enquiries, Brinkley was arrested and charged with seven counts of arson and Luck was arrested and charged with two counts of arson.
At Lewes Crown Court on 30 October 2023, Brinkley was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.
Luck, who also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.
He was ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work and 25 rehabilitation days and will be on an electronically monitored curfew between 8pam and 6am for three months.
Sussex Police's Detective Constable, Emma Arthur-Devennie said the arsons were committed with no consideration to farmers.
"The farmers lost a whole season’s worth of feed and bedding for the animals," she noted.
“The arsons were not targeted, but simply for Brinkley and Luck’s own amusement. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured but their actions could have resulted in a far more tragic outcome.
“I welcome these sentences and I hope they demonstrate that reckless behaviour will not be tolerated in our local communities, and we will continue to work hard to keep Sussex safe.”
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne added: “The actions of the two offenders have been rightly condemned as senseless and hugely dangerous and it’s a miracle that nobody was seriously injured.
“These reckless arsonists left hard working families facing over £1million in damaged property and resulted in hours of emergency service time being used to tackle blazing buildings and vehicles.
"I hope this sends a message to criminals who think that there are areas of our county where you won’t get caught.”