Recovering alcoholic jailed for hoax call

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A partially blind recovering alcoholic has been jailed for phoning a bomb hoax.

James Harkin (65) of Damian House in Derry admitted the offence which occurred on October 5 2013 two weeks after he received a suspended sentence for two similar offences.

The court was told Harkin phoned the ambulance service claiming there was a bomb at the courthouse in Bishop Street.

Police responded but a subsequent search revealed nothing.

It was established that the phone call had come from a phone box and a CSI examination and swabs revealed that the defendant had made a call.

There was no evidence of any other calls made from that phone box.

When interviewed Harkin admitted the offence but claimed he had been drunk at the time.

Defence counsel Mr. Stephen Chapman said that his client had had problems with alcohol and this offence occurred two weeks after he had received a suspended sentence for a similar offence.

The barrister said that Harkin had given up alcohol and had been described as ‘a model resident’ by a worker in Damian House.

Passing sentence Deputy District Judge Paul Conway said Harkin had ‘caused fear’ in the community which he said was the very essence of terrorism.

He said while Harkin may not have been affiliated to any organisation he ‘instilled fear in the community’ on three different occasions.

The judge said: “When the authorities receive bomb warnings they have a duty to the public to respond.

“Police have to use scarce resources and police officers put themselves at risk by clearing an area.

“Other people are also at risk as the police are unable to respond so a domestic violence victim would not receive the assistance they needed.”

The judge said he had sympathy for Harkin’s problems but that ‘this went beyond that.’

He told Harkin: “You not only caused inconvenience you also caused fear and risk by removing police from normal duties and forcing them to go looking for bombs you claimed had been planted.

“When roads are cordoned off and traffic disrupted this harks back to the old days here and causes fear and anxiety in the community.”

Harkin was sentenced to 11 months in custody.