Belfast Telegraph

26,000 hoax 999 calls in Northern Ireland but just 13 convictions

By Chris Kilpatrick

Just 13 people were convicted of making hoax calls against Northern Ireland’s emergency services over a three-year period when there were more than 26,000 offences, it has been revealed.

The shocking figures have come to light after Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott quizzed the Minister of Justice, David Ford, on hoax calls. In his response Mr Ford revealed that between 2006 and 2008 there were 26,000 hoax or possible hoax calls made to the emergency services.

In 2006, five people were convicted of the offence, three in 2007 and five in 2008.

Last month it was revealed hoax calls cost more than £3m each year in Northern Ireland.

Mr Elliott — a member of the Assembly Justice Committee — called for a major clampdown on those responsible.

He said: “I am now calling for tougher action and detection against anyone found responsible for these hoax calls and the effect they have on the fire and ambulance services to react to genuine calls, which are putting at risk those in great need for help in a genuine emergency.

“Three million pounds are being needlessly wasted each year through the actions of mindless individuals. It is no longer acceptable that such low numbers have been prosecuted or convicted.

“Given modern technologies it must be a priority to identify those responsible and impose the current £5,000 fine or imprisonment to send a clear message that they will be caught and brought before the courts and face the full rigours of the law.”

Last month, Health Minister Edwin Poots said those behind making hoax calls are putting people’s lives at risk and is wasting money which could be spent elsewhere.

The estimated £3.16m a year — equal to £9,000 a day — is a massive drain on resources, Mr Poots said.

And he added: “Let's be clear — hoax calls can cost lives. No firefighter or ambulance service personnel can be in two places at once.”

Factfile

  • 2006-2008 26,000 hoax or possible hoax calls
  • £3.16m a year cost to the economy
  • 2006 — 5 convictions
  • 2007 — 3 convictions
  • 2008 — 5 convictions

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