A SCHOOLBOY obsessed with the emergency services and who wanted to become a policeman cost the public purse almost £23,000 with hoax calls.
In one fake incident alone, Newbury magistrates heard, the Thatcham youngster tied up six fire engines, 11 ambulances, 19 police vehicles and 59 emergency services personnel.
The Thames Valley Air Ambulance was also repeatedly deployed, at huge cost, to non-existent aircraft crashes and similar, major disasters, the court was told on Thursday, November 12.
Helen Waite, prosecuting, said real emergencies had gone unattended while emergency services were deployed to the hoaxes.
The boy was aged just 14 years at the time he started his year-long campaign and, when he was finally arrested, he expressed little remorse and could not promise he would not do it again, the court heard.
He was required to pay just a statutory £15 victim surcharge because of his and his family’s lack of means to repay the huge cost to the taxpayer.
Ms Waite said the child, who cannot be identified because of his age, was so convincing that he repeatedly bypassed the emergency services’ natural common sense and added: “Seeing this young boy standing here, you may wonder how everyone was taken in.
“His calls obviously had a ring of truth about them, leading the recipients to believe they were genuine.”
Dozens of calls were made, escalating from traffic collisions and robberies to major incidents such as explosions and downed aircraft, the court was told.
Ms Waite went on: “Because vehicles rushed to the scene with blue lights flashing, there was a risk to other road users.”
When he was eventually traced and arrested, lots of pictures of the emergency services’ response were found on the boy’s mobile phone, magistrates were told.
She added: “He told police he was bored and wanted to become a policeman.
“He showed little remorse and couldn’t say that he wouldn’t do it again.”
The boy, who has previously been officially cautioned and reprimanded for other offences, admitted sending false messages between August 23 last year and September 14 this year.
The cost to the various emergency services was broken down as £6,230 to South Central Ambulance Service, £5,598.61 to Thames Valley Police and more than £11,000 to the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The boy’s solicitor, who wanted to remain anonymous, said her client had been diagnosed as being “intelligent and academic” but “on the autistic spectrum”.
She said he had enjoyed the drama ensuing from his calls and queried why the emergency services had not earlier traced the phone he used to make the calls for more than a year.
Magistrates, sitting as a youth court, said they had only two options – to send the boy into youth custody or to impose a referral order.
They chose the latter, imposing a 12-month order.
Because of the lack of means of the boy and his family, they made no order for costs or contribution to the compensation of almost £23,000 which was requested.
Instead the boy was told to pay a £15 victim surcharge.