Bomb hoaxer sent to prison

This Is Wiltshire: Stephen Strange at Swindon Magistrates’ Court Stephen Strange at Swindon Magistrates’ Court

BOMB hoaxer Stephen Strange will face six months behind bars after bringing Swindon to a standstill and wasting valuable police time with a fake threat at Debenhams last December.

Strange, 49, of Faringdon Road, had made the call on December 3, after being denied access to the store while it was open only to a private military function.

In response, Strange called in a fake bomb threat, using a mock Irish accent, which subsequently forced an evacuation of 350 people from the shop and a significant presence from the emergency services.

The 999 call wasted three hours of police time, lost Debenhams thousands of pounds in custom, and caused distress to the families of military personnel at the Defence Academy in Shriven-ham, who were evacuated.

At Swindon Crown Court last month, Strange, who has previously been convicted for spying on users at a tanning salon in Chippenham, admitted the hoax In sentencing Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “When the police found you, you denied making the phone call, but they found the phone the call was made on in your possession.

“You had ample opportunity to let people know this was a hoax.

“There were three hours that meant the emergency services, in considerable numbers, were tied up on a hoax call at great cost to the taxpayer.

“But also, you have to bear in mind they could’ve been called out to other places where they were needed.

“You were on a drug and alcohol-fuelled binge. That, nowadays, is regarded as being an aggravating feature for people who commit such offences.

“I bear in mind your disability and the difficulty you will experience in serving an imprisonment.”

The judge said a starting point for a guilty verdict found by jury would be 18 months, which he halved, given Strange’s disability and length of time since his last offence.

He then took a third from the sentence for early guilty plea and said Strange would serve three months before being released under supervision.

In mitigation, Mike Pulsford said Strange had acted in a drunken stupor as a result of drinking following the end of a long-term relationship.

He uses a wheelchair after having a leg amputated for deep vein thrombosis and Mr Pulsford said any prison would struggle to accommodate him.

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