A teenage yob who trashed almost £10,000 worth of Christmas decorations has received a community punishment for his crime.

Joshua Clarke, 19, of The Close, Wilshere Avenue, St Albans, wrecked a seasonal display at Christopher Place Shopping Centre last December in a wanton act of vandalism.

According to centre manager Catherine Morris, Clarke was part of a gang of youths who had been plaguing city centre businesses with nuisance behaviour over the festive period.

But Clarke took matters to the extreme when he tore the Christmas lights off the trees at Christopher Place, smashed the centrepiece reindeer, and picked up the accompanying sledge and threw it to the ground.

She explained: “Christopher Place is always a destination at Christmas, perhaps even more than the city centre, as it’s somewhere people come to take photos with our display.

“We always put on something bigger and better each year but now I’m scared to do it.

“This vandalism had to come out of our insurance money, and the amount of damage he caused in such a quick period of time was horrendous. He went berserk.”

Clarke appeared at St Albans magistrates’ court on April 12 to answer a charge that he damaged Christmas decorations to the value of £9,910.80 belonging to Christopher Place Shopping Centre between December 28 and 30, intending to destroy or damage such property.

He pleaded guilty to the offence and was ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid community work over the next 12 months and pay £750 compensation for the damage he caused.

There was no order for costs and he will be allowed to repay the compensation at the sum of £100 a month.

Helen Burridge, manager of St Albans BID (Business Improvement District), which represents retailers and other businesses in the city centre, added: “St Albans BID members benefit from free membership to the St Albans Business Crime Partnership. This network of communication between the police, CCTV room and businesses at the coalface of anti-social behaviour has enabled a number of perpetrators to be prevented or intercepted at the point of committing crimes in the city centre.

“Although the city’s crime figures are incredibly low based on national averages, we are nonetheless committed to protecting our businesses and their property. While this needless crime should never have happened, it is important for would-be perpetrators to know that vandalism and acts of this kind are not tolerated and will be pursued through the courts.”