TWO teenagers have been locked up for damaging a church roof, after a magistrate told them Christian forgiveness was not his remit.

Jason West and Warren Winskill caused more than £2,000 damage to the roof of Christ Church, in Ireton Road, Colchester.

The pair, both from Colchester, initially climbed up there to smoke some cannabis, but ended up damaging the lead cladding while they were up there.

They were caught after neighbours spotted them and phoned the police. West and Winskill, both 19, admitted criminal damage and possessing cannabis.

The teenagers’ lawyers suggested district judge David Cooper might show them some Christian forgiveness, but the judge was unsympathetic.

Mr Cooper said he had a responsibility to the church and sent both to a youth detention centre for 42 days.

Colchester Magistrates’ Court heard West, of Walsingham Road, and Winskill, of Military Road, were spotted on the church roof just before midnight on March 6.

They were originally charged stealing lead from the roof, but that was later ammended to criminally damaging the roof.

Matthew Swash, Winskill’s lawyer, suggested a community sentence with an order to do unpaid work would be appropriate.

He said: “If he does get community hours, he could spend them cleaning the churchyard and giving back to the community.

“If he goes into custody, he will, in some ways, be getting a lighter sentence, because he’ll get out sooner and it will be costing the taxpayer more to keep him in the cell.”

West’s lawyer, Roger Brice, pointed out the church upheld principles of forgiveness and redemption.

Giving West a community punishment would be in line with values the church espoused, he said.

However, their arguments fell on deaf ears.

Mr Cooper told Mr Swash: “The poor old church will never get its money back.

“Churches are vulnerable to just the kind of activity your client has been engaging in.

“Churches are being targeted across the country and it is costing them millions of pounds a year.

“It’s a complete plague and nothing seems to be done about it.”

Passing sentence, he told the pair: “Maybe the parishioners of Christ Church feel it is my duty to show some Christian forgiveness, but that isn’t my function.

“Part of my function is to bring about some kind of justice to reflect the £2,000 damage. I don’t have the kind of confidence your laywers have that a community order would do any good.”