A HOAXER who triggered a massive search operation after claiming to be injured on open moorland has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Andrew Griffiths, 44, who was at his home in Corwen while police and volunteers combed a wide area of Llandegla Moors, has been ordered to pay compensation to those involved and has been barred from calling the emergency services unless there is a genuine emergency.
Last month at Prestatyn Magistrates Court, Griffiths, of Bro Hafryn, Corwen, pleaded guilty to wasting police time with the hoax call on May 17.
He made a 999 call saying his name was Neil Jones and he had injured his ankle while walking on the moors between Ruthin and Wrexham. He also said his friend, a ‘Jackie Williams’ had left an hour earlier to seek help but not returned.
Worried for both the man and his friend, the police called in the North East Wales Search and Rescue Team who sent three vehicles and 11 members to the area.
The police helicopter was also deployed but had to return to base to refuel, while officers visited all car-parks in the extensive area to try to find the man’s car.
Suspecting it was a hoax, officers in the high-tech crime unit checked phone details and visited Griffiths at his home – but he denied any knowledge of the call.
The following morning the helicopter was again called out.
But after 15 hours, the experienced rescue team became convinced that any walker would have been found.
Griffiths was arrested and immediately admitted being responsible, but could offer no explanation why he did it.
The court was told that the search had cost North Wales Police £1,700 in officers’ time and £1,950 for two hours of the helicopter’s time.
The search and rescue team, though voluntary, had spent £59 on petrol.
Yesterday, magistrates considered a pre-sentence report on Griffiths.
His solicitor Andy Hutchinson said he could still offer no motive for making the call.
He told the court Griffiths was a carer for his disabled partner and had been very close to his mother, who had died recently died of cancer.
“The only possible motive for his stupidity was that he was attention-seeking,” said Mr Hutchinson.
Griffiths was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £400 compensation to North Wales Police and £100 to the search and rescue team.
He must also pay £85 costs and s surcharge of £80.
The Bench also made him subject of an indefinite restraining order preventing him from calling the emergency services except in a genuine emergency.
Chairman Richard Welch said it was a very serious case, having wasted a lot of police time and money.
He added it could have meant others in genuine difficulty could not be helped.
“It started out as something very silly but became very serious,” he said.