Michael Cuminskey was jailed for faking mountain accidents

Michael Cuminskey was jailed for faking mountain accidents

A man has been jailed for hoaxing mountain rescuers in north Wales.

Michael Cuminskey was sentenced to 16 months in prison at Caernarfon Crown Court on Friday.

The 23-year-old from Stockton-on-Tees sparked a rescue operation involving Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team and the Caernarfon Coastguard helicopter in March 2016 when he claimed to have been injured in a fall while walking in the Dinorwig area near Llanberis.

The court heard that he had been involved in an incident in the Lake District three days earlier on the slopes of Helvellyn during which Keswick Mountain Rescue Team volunteers spent more than four hours searching for him. An air ambulance was also involved.

Cuminskey pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance. The judge heard he had also been involved in hoax in the Scottish Borders involving mountain rescuers.

Investigating officer PC Gethin Jones of North Wales Police said: “Hoax calls put lives at risk and are a costly and wasteful use of resources and Cuminskey showed a complete disregard for this fact.

“Not only do hoax calls show a lack of respect for the emergency services, but responding to false calls divert staff and volunteers from genuine emergencies where they are needed most.

“This particular incident is estimated to have cost the public purse over £32,000 which is unforgiveable. 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, chair of the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association said: “Last year, mountain rescue teams in North Wales attended almost 600 incidents which is an unprecedented level of demand for our 350 volunteers who are spread across the teams in the region.

“The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, who were called to this hoax attended 213 of these incidents alone.

“As registered charities the teams rely solely on voluntary contributions to remain operational, and maintaining this high level of service is a costly affair. Any unnecessary call on our resources carries a significant impact, and we welcome today’s sentencing having supported North Wales Police throughout the investigation.”

Keswick team members at the incident in March 2016. Photo: Keswick MRT

Keswick team members at the incident in March 2016. Photo: Keswick MRT

National Police Chief’s Council lead on search and rescue, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard said: “Mountain rescue teams, who provide an invaluable service to the public in the Snowdonia area, are staffed entirely by volunteers, who have a very difficult and challenging role, and we are indebted to the work they carry out and the lives they help to save.

“Historically north Wales is one of the busiest search and rescue regions in the UK. Colleagues from the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Caernarfon often deal with challenging and dangerous rescues. Each unnecessary call to them reduces time available for calls which are for genuine matters. It is also a waste of operators’ time and clogs up the already pressured 999 system.

“The courts take incidents such as this very seriously and I hope this result is a reminder to those who make such hoaxes that we will take robust action against those who make hoax calls.”

While the Keswick team was dealing with Cuminskey on the western slopes of Helvellyn, it received a genuine call from a walker who broke her ankle while descending Cat Bells. A small number of volunteers from the team was able to divert to help the woman.

Cuminskey was described in court as a vulnerable young man who craved attention.

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