Jail sentence for hoax bomb threat

editorial image

A 66 year-old Derry man has received a five-month jail sentence for making a hoax bomb threat in July of this year.

James Harkin appeared at Derry Magistrate’s Court via video link from Maghaberry Prison yesterday morning. The court heard that Harkin, who has an address at Altcar Park, telephoned the fire and rescue service on July 30 from a pay box beside Damien House, Foyle Road. CCTV footage later recovered by police placed Harkin at the scene at the time the call was made.

A solicitor for the Public Prosecution Service told the court that Harkin had claimed he was from Oglaigh n na hEireann and had used a code word when he alleged that explosives had been abandoned near the Railway Museum on Foyle Road. Harkin had initially denied making the call and said he had called BT on 151 to ask that a new phone line be installed in his friend’s home.

The court then heard that Harkin had made a second call on July 31 at 1.45pm from Bishop Street when he alleged that a firearm had been left at an address in Shipquay Street.

Defence barrister Eoghan Devlin told the court the code word which had been used by his client had actually been “bastard” and as such the authorities would have realised that they were not dealing with a serious threat from a terrorist organisation.

“Mr Harkin is on anti-psychotic mediation and he mixed this medication with alcohol,” said Mr Devlin. “I think that the court is able to see that he cuts a rather pathetic figure. He is more a man to be pitied that to be scorned.”

But District Judge Barney McElholm said that even if police had been minded to be “cynical” about the threat, they still had to close the area down; “My own home town has been closed down in this way, several times in recent weeks. Although I think that more sinister elements that this one are responsible for that,” he said.