Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mountain rescue hoax journalist jailed for three months

Mountain rescue hoax journalist jailed for three months

Liz Roberts, Reporter
Thursday 23 September 2010 02:25 PM GMT
Last updated at Thursday 23 September 2010 02:51 PM GMT
Skiddaw. 32 members of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team turned out to help a non-existent casualty
Skiddaw. 32 members of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team turned out to help a non-existent casualty

A journalist who made two hoax calls to mountain rescuers during last year’s Cumbrian floods has been jailed.

Sarah Louise Crickmer, formerly of South Shields but now living in Scarborough, was sent to prison for three months by district judge Gerald Chalk sitting at West Allerdale Magistrates in Workington. She was found guilty last month.

Ms Crickmer’s solicitor Christian Harbinson, who withdrew from the case, told an earlier hearing that she had alcohol problems. She was convicted in her absence of two counts of sending a false message by public electronic communication network to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, in contravention of section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

The court had heard that she had been drinking on the day of the incidents, and had called Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team’s Julian Carradice to say a walker was injured on Skiddaw. Mr Carradice passed on the information to Keswick team leader Mark Hodgson in whose area the mountain lies.

Despite the Lake District’s mountain rescue teams being stretched to the limit taking part in the rescue operations throughout Cumbria, 32 of the volunteers from the Keswick team went to Skiddaw in answer to the hoax.

Mr Hodgson said after Ms Crickmer’s conviction: “The information that we were able to gain from the ‘informant’ was very sketchy and just didn’t add-up.

“Several separate discussions with the informant by senior team members followed culminating in the police attending the informant’s hotel with the team leader and following further questioning arresting her.

“It transpires that a reporter was trying to make a story out of mountain rescue teams not doing mountain rescues because of their input to the flood rescue operations,”

After the conviction of the journalist, whose father was a well-know reporter in the North-East, Andy Simpson of Mountain Rescue England & Wales said: “At the time of the call, we were gearing up to bring teams in from outside Cumbria to relieve the pressure faced by the local teams already dealing with the floods in Cockermouth.

“There was never any question that we couldn’t have coped with additional incidents had we been required to, and the local team initially dealt with the hoax incident as though it was a real callout.

“As an organisation staffed entirely by volunteers, this kind of thing is extremely unhelpful.”

Following the handing down of the sentence, Mr Simpson said: “As with all hoax calls to the emergency services, diverting resources from a real emergency can have serious consequences for those involved. While mountain rescue services are provided by volunteers we are no less professional than the statutory authorities, something which the court has clearly recognised.”

The 27-year-old journalist last year received an award from former Home Secretary Charles Clarke at an event marking the tenth anniversary of the noSWeat Journalism training company.

Shamsul Islam Naz
Secretary General
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