Nuneaton magistrates on Tuesday sentenced a hoax caller to 16-week imprisonment for causing trauma to eight families that their relatives had died. He was handed the sentence after admitting to eight offences under the Malicious Communications Act.
Ashley Dodd, 28, of Hayes Lane, Exhall, Warwickshire, posing as a doctor working at the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton called eight families in the Bedworth area, telling them to come to the hospital saying that their relatives had died. The drunken man made the calls at random after getting the numbers from a phone book.
The calls made during the wee hours on 7 June caused trauma to the families. One of the victims of the hoax call had started planning for the funeral of her son, one suffered an asthma attack and two of them visited the hospital on being told that their sons had died.
"My whole world dropped. I felt sick and dizzy and drove like a lunatic to get to the hospital. The shock and distress brought on an asthma attack after I had arrived in the A&E ward. In my mind I was planning my son's funeral," Crown Prosecution Service solicitor Naila Iqbal read out a statement by victim Patricia Bee, who was told that her son had died, according to Coventry Telegraph.
Balvinder Hayer, who was told that her child had died, said she was left grief-stricken by the hoax call and that she and husband learned that it was a bogus call on their way to the hospital.
"For a couple of hours that night my world fell apart," Mrs Hayer said in a statement, according to the tabloid newspaper. "The thought of losing my 27-year-old son was just dreadful. Words cannot describe the grief and utter despair we felt. Months later I still have flashbacks."
The accused had earlier pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Malicious Communications Act after the police traced his mobile phone and was caught at his flat. He was caught with a phone with the same number from which he called the victims on 24 June.
Dodd apologized to the victims in the court for the inconvenience caused and said that he was ashamed of what he had done to them.
"I apologise. What I did was absolutely disgusting. I am ashamed and sorry for any inconvenience I have caused you," he said according to the newspaper.
Chairman of the bench Trefor Jones told the accused while passing the sentence that he had caused serious psychological impact on a number of victims, according to Independent.
"This is an appalling offence. You say that you are disgusted, the victims are disgusted and so are we. The guidelines suggest a sentence in the range of a high level community order and up to 12 weeks' prison. We have decided to go out of that range due to the aggravating features," Independent quoted Jones as saying. "There are multiple victims and there is a serious psychological impact on a number of victims. Each offence is so disgusting it will attract 16 weeks' custody to run concurrently."