Belfast Telegraph

Alcoholic who made 14 hoax bomb calls in six months is jailed

An alcoholic who made 14 hoax bomb calls in six months using a well-known brand of butter as a codeword has been jailed for 15 months.

Belfast Crown Court heard that although 40-year-old John Mark Shields claimed to be from the Continuity IRA when he called the Samaritans on various dates in 2009, there was in fact no suggestion of any paramilitary involvement or membership.

The court further heard that each and every time Shields made a hoax call, he used the code word "Kerrygold" and that when cops traced the calls back to him, there was nothing in his fridge but Kerrygold butter.

Shields, from Ladybrook Crescent in Belfast, had pleaded guilty to 14 counts of causing a bomb hoax on various dates between April 22 and November 2, 2009.

Prosecuting lawyer David Russell said all the calls had come from a single mobile phone with the caller claiming to be from the CIRA.

In every incident he told the court, Shields told the Samaritans operator there was a bomb placed or being moved in a certain area and gave "Kerrygold" as a code word.

The lawyer recounted how all the incidents were centred around west Belfast, often close to Shields' own home and that while the code word was not recognised, the police had to respond given the potential threat which caused serious disruption and stretched police resources.

Defence lawyer Joe Brolly said the various reports compiled on Shields "paint an atrocious picture" of alcoholism, homelessness, subnormal mental functioning, a diagnosis of schizo effective disorder and an extremely miserable life".

Mr Russell told the court the Crown accepted that Shields' culpability had to be viewed against his mental impairments.

Ordering Shields to spend seven months in jail and the rest of his sentence on licence, Judge Kinney told him that despite his "obvious difficulties" he had caused disruption and fear in the community.

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