Man Sentenced after Hoax Call Wastes Time And Effort Of Community Search And Rescue Volunteers
A man was sentenced today at Prestatyn Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to wasting police time. Andrew Griffiths received a four month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to pay compensation of £400 to North Wales Police and £100 to the North East Wales Search and Rescue team (NEWSAR), costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £80.
Andrew Griffiths was charged with wasting police time after contacting North Wales Police on 17th May 2014, claiming to be ‘Neil Jones’ who said he had sustained an ankle injury whilst out walking on the Llandegla Moors. As a result of the call, volunteers from NEWSAR were called to assist and a large multi-agency search operation emerged which extended through the night. The search which utilised over 15 Police Officers, 6 Police staff and 11 NEWSAR team members for over 91 cumulative hours at a cost of approximately £3650 later transpired to be a hoax.
When contacted by North Wales Police, NEWSAR First Responders made an assessment on the information available and due to the person considered to be high risk, a decision was taken to call the team out.
As further information came to light, concerns were raised about the validity of this information and the decision made to stand team members down. By this time, eleven NEWSAR volunteers had dedicated more than 38 person hours to the search, seven team members had made their own way to the call out in their own vehicles from different locations at their own expense, and three team vehicles were driven a total of 132 miles at a cost of just under £60 in fuel.
As a voluntary organisation and registered charity, these costs are not reimbursed by any outside body and will be borne by the charity (NEWSAR) and the individuals who were involved.
NEWSAR Team Leader Chris Griffiths said: “As with all Mountain Rescue teams, NEWSAR is a voluntary organisation. Members attend training and call-outs at their own cost – giving up many hours to provide an efficient and professional service to their communities.
“I am extremely proud of my team – their commitment and willingness to turn out in any weather, at any time, is outstanding.
“It is therefore very frustrating when time and money is wasted on mindless hoax calls.
“I would urge everyone to think carefully about engaging any emergency service when it is really not necessary to do so. The consequences for someone in genuine need of urgent help could be dire”.
Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, North Wales Police added ” The North Wales Police greatly appreciates the assistance that NEWSAR and other search teams provide to the Force. This was a busy weekend and our staff were dealing with many different situations. It is disappointing that someone made such a hoax call and we felt it necessary to investigate the incident which has led to today’s hearing.
Notes for Editors
The North East Wales Search & Rescue Team (NEWSAR) consists of some 52 volunteers. The team exists to assist those who are missing or in need of rescue in North East Wales and neighbouring counties such as Cheshire and North Powys. NEWSAR provides a 24 hour/365 days per year service and can be called out via the Police. The team operates both in mountainous terrain and in more suburban areas – wherever people are in need of assistance – and callouts are not limited to mountain incidents.
NEWSAR attends on average 50 call-outs per year. The team takes great pride in the service that it offers to the local communities and makes a real contribution to saving life. It is a registered charity, like all mountain rescue teams receives very little government funding towards its operating costs. On average it costs NEWSAR approximately £20,000 a year to run the Team which has to be found from public donations.
It operates two Landrovers which are fully kitted out with search, rescue and first aid equipment and two Incident Control / Incident Support vehicles.
The team is self-financing and relies on fund-raising efforts by its volunteer members and Supporters Group.
Here is some press coverage on the case:
* Denbighshire Free Press – http://www.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/news/135473/corwen-i-m-stranded-hoaxer-put-lives-at-risk.aspx
* Grough – http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2014/07/09/andrew-griffiths-handed-jail-sentence-for-hoax-that-led-to-rescuers-callout
* BBC News – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-28233998
* Daily Post – http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/hoax-caller-sentenced-over-fake-7397472