Police feared a series of hoax bomb alerts were attempts to lure officers into a dissident republican attack, a court has been told.
Kieran Lavery, who made a total of 16 hoax bomb calls claiming devices had been left at various locations in the Craigavon area, was yesterday jailed for 17 months.
Lavery - who asked to be moved from Hydebank Young Offenders Centre to the dissident republican wing of Maghaberry after he was attacked in his cell by three assailants - will spend another 17 months on supervised licence when released.
Belfast Crown Court heard that during calls claiming devices had been left at various locations, police in the area had concerns as they were reminded of the tactics employed in the fatal shooting of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll, who was murdered in Craigavon while responding to a 999 call in March 2009. Lavery (20), from Meadowbrook in the Tullygally area of the town, admitted 16 counts of communicating false information causing a bomb hoax, and two counts of placing an article causing a bomb hoax. Lavery's offending spanned a period from May 2013 to January 2014.
The court heard that on one occasion Lavery made a hoax call and while he gave a false name, when asked for a date of birth he gave his own. Crown prosecutor Kate McKay told Judge David McFarland that police believed the motivation for the hoax calls was to "lure police officers in to areas where they would be vulnerable to attack by dissident republicans".
Lavery's barrister Tony Lunny branded his client as "not the brightest man around". Mr Lunny made the case that Lavery was "on the periphery" when the two devices were planted, adding Lavery's role was "as a lookout" while others laid the devices down.
Passing sentence, Belfast Recorder David McFarland pointed out the cost of policing Lavery's offending, which amounted to almost £30,000.
The judge said he couldn't just dismiss the hoax calls as pranks, especially given Lavery's interests in dissident republican activity.
He told Lavery: "It is clear you are a suggestible person and you may not have had the ability to resist suggestions made to you by other more sinister elements."
PSNI Inspector Ken Annett said: "The hoax calls and hoax devices caused considerable disruption to the local community."
Lavery will appear at Belfast Magistrates Court later this week to face a count of wasting police time linked to the same offences.