Hoax death caller gets prison term
A callous hoax-caller who phoned families at random and falsely claimed their relatives had died has been jailed for four months.
Ashley Dodd, who posed as a hospital doctor and a care worker during eight bogus calls, left one grief-stricken victim planning her son's funeral and another suffering an asthma attack.
Nuneaton Magistrates' Court was told the 28-year-old targeted residents in the Bedworth area of Warwickshire in the early hours by choosing names from a phone book.
In some of the hoax calls, Dodd was described as "nicely-spoken and eloquent" and informed relatives they would be required to identify their child's body at Nuneaton's George Eliot Hospital.
Prosecutor Naila Iqbal told magistrates the offences were committed in June this year after Dodd, of Hayes Lane, Exhall, had been drinking.
Magistrates were told that at least two victims travelled to the hospital, genuinely believing their sons had died.
In a victim impact statement read to the court by Ms Iqbal, Balvinder Hayer described how she was left an "emotional wreck" by the hoax at 2.20am.
Another victim, Patricia Bee, described "driving like a lunatic" to reach hospital, where baffled staff said they had no record of her son Scott.
In her statement to the court, Mrs Bee recalled: "At the hospital I just wanted to see Scott.
"I thought they had already taken him to the mortuary and were stalling because they were waiting for a doctor to see me."
A police inquiry traced all the bogus calls to a mobile phone belonging to Dodd, who told another victim that her mother had passed away in a care home.
The hoaxer, who has a previous conviction for a similar offence, as well as a history of dishonesty and public order breaches, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to eight charges brought under the Malicious Communications Act.
Having asked magistrates for permission to make a personal apology to several victims who attended his sentencing hearing, Dodd expressed shame at his actions.
He told the court: "I just want to apologise for what I have done - it was absolutely disgusting.
"I am ashamed of what I have done and I am sorry for any inconvenience I have caused."
Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Trefor Jones told the father-of-two: "This is an appalling offence. You say that your are disgusted, the victims are disgusted and so are we.
"The guidelines suggest a sentence in the range of a high level community order and up to 12 weeks' prison. We have decided to go out of that range due to the aggravating features.
"There are multiple victims and there is a serious psychological impact on a number of victims.
"Each offence is so disgusting it will attract 16 weeks' custody to run concurrently."
Dodd used the surname of a doctor who has worked with the England football team to make the calls, after hearing him being mentioned on the news.
Said by his solicitor to have been "totally intoxicated" during the offences, Dodd was arrested on June 24 and told police he had been on a drinking binge during the weekend when the calls were made.
Commenting on the case, Detective Constable Michelle Russell said: "We are pleased that Mr Dodd has been brought to justice and hope it will bring some comfort to the families.
"These calls must have been extremely upsetting for those who received them.
"Thankfully incidents of this nature are rare but as this case shows, we will take them very seriously. We'd like to thank all of the families, who assisted with this investigation."