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Snowdonia hoax caller jailed over £32,000 mountain rescue

Michael CuminskeyImage copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Cuminskey faked accidents in Snowdonia and the Lake District in the same week

A man who made a hoax call about a Snowdonia mountain accident, prompting a £32,000 rescue operation, has been jailed for 16 months.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard Michael Cuminskey also raised a bogus alarm in the Lake District, Cumbria just a few days earlier in March 2016.

The 23-year-old from Darlington pleaded guilty to two charges of causing a public nuisance.

He had previously been convicted of a similar offence in Scotland.

North Wales Police said his actions were “unforgivable” and welcomed the sentence.

Image copyright Llanberis Mountain Rescue
Image caption Llanberis Mountain Rescue team responded to Cuminskey’s hoax call in Snowdonia

Prosecutor Brett Williamson said Cuminskey had been climbing in the Vivian Quarry in Llanberis when he was found at the bottom of a 130ft (40m) drop claiming to have hurt his back.

Twenty mountain rescue volunteers went to his aid, but found him to be aggressive, and when winched aboard a rescue helicopter he tried to take a selfie on his phone.

He was flown to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor where he was uncooperative.

Days earlier Cuminskey claimed to have fallen while walking in the Lake District.

He told rescuers he could not feel his legs and was evacuated by helicopter, but it was forced to land after he became aggressive towards the crew.

Once at the hospital he said he was going to the toilet, when it is believed he left the hospital.

His criminal record showed there was another pretend fall in the Scottish borders in July 2016. He had cried and said the emergency services were the only ones to be nice to him.

‘Thoroughly ashamed’

Cuminskey’s defence barrister Jonathan Austin told the court his client was a “troubled young man” who “craved affection and support”.

But judge Huw Rees said only a custodial sentence was appropriate to send a message to other potential hoaxers.

He told Cuminskey he should be “thoroughly ashamed”.

He protested violently as attempts were made to remove him from the dock.

Speaking after the case, PC Gethin Jones from North Wales Police said hoax calls not only “show a lack of respect for the emergency services” but divert staff and volunteers from genuine emergencies.

“This particular incident is estimated to have cost the public purse over £32,000 which is unforgiveable,” he said.

‘Costly affair’

“The search and rescue helicopter was dealing with this particular incident where it could have been needed elsewhere on a genuine life-saving call.”

Phil Benbow, chairman of the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association, said as charities, the teams “rely solely on voluntary contributions to remain operational” and maintaining a high level of service is a “costly affair”.

“Any unnecessary call on our resources carries a significant impact, and we welcome today’s sentencing,” he said.

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