A TEENAGE boy who killed a van driver by hurling a car battery from an overhead bridge in Wirral has been sentenced to four years' detention.

The 16-year-old boy was told by Judge Henry Globe: "This crime was particularly grave. The act of dropping the battery was in my view, even to you, obviously dangerous in the circumstances where traffic was likely to be and was in fact passing below.

"The inevitable happened. It is an act which is extremely easy to perpetrate and to copy. Others must be deterred from doing so," said Judge Globe, the Recorder of Liverpool.

"You pleaded guilty on the basis it was an unlawful and dangerous act to throw the battery from the bridge when traffic was passing by under the bridge."

He said the 33-year-old victim, Christopher McCaffrey, was described as a gifted paint sprayer who had gained recognition throughout Wirral for his talent in customised spraying of motorcycles.

Judge Globe said: "He was a selfless, caring individual who will be badly missed by his family and friends. Over 300 people from all walks of life and ages attended his funeral. His was a life needlessly taken away from him by reckless and mindless vandalism."

The Rock Ferry youth, whom the judge ruled could not be identified because of his wider family, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was 15 at the time and the court heard that he has learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

David Aubrey, QC, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that at 1.50pm, on May 31 last year, Mr McCaffrey, of Moreton, was driving a Mercedes van which he had borrowed from a friend as he was in the process of moving home.

As he drove along New Ferry by-pass in the outside lane towards Bromborough he passed under a bridge at Rock Lane and as he did so "a car battery hit the van in the windscreen and Mr McCaffrey, not surprisingly, rapidly lost control."

Mr Aubrey said that the victim suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.

Witnesses described the boy as walking with a swagger and then leaning over the bridge railing and hurling the battery with both hands at the blue van.

Police inquiries led to a group of boys who had been seen in the area and one of them, aged 13, told how the older boy had picked up the battery from a garden and walked with it to the bridge.

Shortly afterwards he heard a bang and he saw the boy running away. He saw the aftermath of the incident and correctly believed the driver had died. When he spoke to the other boy he told him he had not meant to kill the driver.

When the defendant was spoken to by police he claimed he had seen someone else throw the object and told the 13-year-old boy to stick to that story. "The defendant was seeking to cover up the enormity of what he had done," said Mr Aubrey.

He was arrested at 6.30pm that day and repeatedly lied saying he had seen two youths dropping it. Mr Aubrey said that had the 13-year-old not assisted police the defendant would have escaped as there was no forensic evidence.

Neil Flewitt, QC, defending, said that the boy suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder and learning difficulties. "He was a child with difficulties and limit-ations and not a fully-functioning adult with a clear understanding of the possible consequences of his actions," he said.

He said that it was not accepted that the boy had targeted the van in any way but he must have been aware of the traffic and he risk being run: "He is deeply ashamed and regrets what happened."

The incident took place a month after he had been excluded from school and was back home where he lacked the supervised existence he needed to control his prob-lems.

"It was an accident waiting to happen," he observed.

"He does not have the skills to appreciate the conseq-uences of his actions. It is clear he acts impulsively."

Since his arrest the youth has benefited from assistance while on remand, said Mr Flewitt. The court heard that the boy's previous convictions included arson involving setting fires to mattresses in public in October, 2000, for which he was made the subject of a three-month action plan.

He has two subsequent con-victions for common assault and one for criminal damage and was on bail for one of the assaults at the time of the manslaughter.