Man accused of making over 40 nuisance ambulance calls in five days must stay in prison

​A Belfast man accused of making more than 40 nuisance calls for ambulances in a five-day period must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled today.
Nuisance ambulance calls.Nuisance ambulance calls.
Nuisance ambulance calls.

Peter O’Toole was refused bail on charges of having paramedics repeatedly dispatched to his home last month at a time when they were operating under severe pressure.

Madam Justice McBride told the 59-year-old: “I can’t allow the public to be exposed to risk because you are making all these nuisance calls and tying up ambulances while people who are seriously ill are waiting for them.

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O’Toole, of Dunluce Avenue, is charged with obstructing the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) from responding to emergency circumstances.

He also faces a further count of persistent improper use of a public communications network.

A Crown barrister told the court he phoned the 999 system 44 times between March 18-22.

“The Ambulance Service was operating under severe pressure and could not afford to be dealing with these persistent calls not deemed to be medical emergencies,” she submitted.

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Crews were sent to O’Toole’s home, but on each occasion he refused to travel to hospital.

Once they had left he rang 999 again to make a further request for assistance, according to the prosecutor.

She added: “During police interviews he admitted making the phone calls and stated they were due to anxiety aggravated by alcohol.

“He said that paramedics put him at ease simply by attending his home.”

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The court heard O’Toole has a history of similar behaviour stretching back to 2018.

Defence counsel Turlough Madden attributed his client’s actions to a “vicious cycle” of depression, loneliness and drinking.

“They are nuisance offences, there is no violence, but I concede they have a greater impact on wider society,” he said.

Denying bail, however, Madam Justice McBride held that the risk of O’Toole re-offending was too great.

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She stressed to the defendant that it was not the Ambulance Service’s role to put him at ease.

The judge declared: “They have a much different job dealing with emergencies, and yours is not an emergency.”