THE TRIAL of a Rugby man accused of carrying out the arson attack which claimed the life of a five-year-old boy is to be heard by a High Court judge.
Aaron Medcraft pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to the murder of the youngster, who died an agonising four months after the blaze at his home in Wentworth Road, Rugby.
He also pleaded not guilty to three charges alleging the attempted murder of two other children, aged eight and ten at the time, and their 28-year-old mother.
In addition Medcraft, 23, of Matlock Close, Rugby, denied a further charge of arson with intent to endanger the lives of the mother and children.
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC ordered that none of the alleged victims can be named to protect the identities of the surviving children.
The charges follow an alleged arson attack on the house in Wentworth Road in the early hours of November 15, 2018.
The woman and all three children were injured in the blaze, and the five-year-old finally succumbed to his injuries and died in March last year.
Judge Lockhart said that the Midlands ‘Presiding Judge’, who is responsible for the allocation of serious cases, had decided that the trial should be heard by a High Court judge.
And the anticipated date for the trial, which he said would remain at Warwick Crown Court, was June 14 next year.
He had explained at a previous hearing that was the earliest it could be listed ‘given the amount of work that is backlogged’ because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prosecutor Kevin Hegarty QC said: “When the case was last before the court, it seems there was some suggestion the trial might last six weeks. That is not my view.”
He explained that he believe the trial would take four weeks, and Judge Lockhart observed that the defence case was that someone else had set the fire.
The judge adjourned the case for trial, with a pre-trial hearing to take place in May, but he also ordered that there should be a further hearing in February.
That will be to consider extending the ‘custody time limit’ – the period of time a defendant can be held in custody before standing trial – which in Medcraft’s case is currently due to expire in March.
Remanding Medcraft in custody, Judge Lockhart told him: “You will be tried in June next year before a High Court judge at this court.
“You must attend for your trial. In the meantime, I remand you into custody.”