Sarah Crickmer claimed a walker had broken a leg on Skiddaw

Sarah Crickmer claimed a walker had broken a leg on Skiddaw

A journalist has been found guilty of making hoax calls to mountain rescuers at the height of the Cumbrian floods in November last year.

Sarah Louise Crickmer, 27, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, was found guilty at West Allerdale Magistrates Court of two counts of sending a false message by public electronic communication network to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, in contravention of section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

She was convicted on the second day of the hearing in Workington.

The incident involved calls made to Julian Carradice of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team as the area’s 12 mountain rescue teams in the Lake District were pushed to their limits dealing with the worst floods in living memory. Police appealed to fellwalkers to stay off the mountains to allow the volunteer rescue teams to devote their efforts to the county-wide emergency.

Ms Crickmer told Mr Carradice that she believed someone had broken their leg on Skiddaw and that no rescue team had been sent. The details were passed on to the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, in whose area Skiddaw is, and investigations began.

Christopher Higgins of the Keswick team told the court he went to the Lyzzick Hall Hotel, near Applethwaite, to speak to her after being unable to get full details from her over the phone. He became suspicious when she was unable to provide any further details.

Members of the Keswick team were put on standby at the foot of Skiddaw as a result of the calls.

When police forensic officers examined the journalist’s laptop computer, they found a pre-written story about the incident.

The court heard that Ms Crickmer has alcohol problems and felt too unwell to attend the trial. Her solicitor Christian Harbinson withdrew from the case.

Magistrates warned she could be jailed. The case was adjourned for reports on the woman, and a warrant for her arrest was issued.

After the verdict, Andy Simpson of Mountain Rescue England & Wales said: “At the time of the call, we were gearing up to bring teams in from outside Cumbria to relieve the pressure faced by the local teams already dealing with the floods in Cockermouth.

“There was never any question that we couldn’t have coped with additional incidents had we been required to, and the local team initially dealt with the hoax incident as though it was a real callout.

“As an organisation staffed entirely by volunteers, this kind of thing is extremely unhelpful.”

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