Man jailed for making Belfast hoax bomb calls

Laganside Courts, Belfast.  Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013
Laganside Courts, Belfast. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013

An “unstable” man who made a series of hoax bomb calls claiming devices had been left in the Markets area of Belfast was jailed for nine months on Tuesday.

Sentencing Karl Patrick McCartan, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that whilst it soon became apparent that the calls received were “nuisance calls”, they also caused disruption both to people living in the area and to security resources who had to respond.

McCartan, 36, from Stewart Street in Belfast, admitted making a total of 12 hoax bomb calls to the emergency services between October 1 and 12 last year.

Belfast Crown Court heard McCartan – who claimed he was calling from either ‘Action Against Drugs’ or ‘Republican Headhunters’ – was caught after he left his mobile telephone number with police over an unrelated incident, and officers were able to link the hoax calls to his phone.

Passing sentence, Judge Kerr described McCartan as an “unstable man” and said he accepted McCartan suffered from mental health difficulties which were both psychological and also linked to his drugs misuse.

A previous hearing was told that the series of hoax bomb calls not only cost over £18,000, but also came at a time and in an area of the city which had recently experienced two high-profile murders.

During the calls, McCartan rang 999 and claimed either pipe bombs or improvised explosive devices had been left in and around the Markets area. He also made a call on October 3 when he threatened that four drug dealers would be shot.

On some occasions, McCartan claimed bombs had been left close to where children were present, and “specifically requested” that police be sent to the area. This, the Crown say, was a plan to try and encourage a police presence.

The court heard that on October 12, McCartan went to Musgrave Street police station after a bullet was found in an alleyway in Friendly Street. He left his mobile number with police, and it emerged that his number had been used to make one of the hoax bomb calls.

An investigation revealed that the same handset was used to make all the calls, and that during the period of offending different SIM cards were used.

A defence barrister said his client was a “vulnerable individual”, and described the hoax bomb calls as “amateurish”.

He also said McCartan now recognises the stupidity of his actions and apologised to the court, adding it came at a “chaotic time” in his life when there was a “toxic mix” of hating paramilitaries and taking drugs.