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BOY QUIZZED OVER 4,000 HOAX CALLS; 12-yr-old 'rang police, charities & Empire State'.

Byline: KRISSY STORRAR

A 12-YEAR-OLD boy has been quizzed by police after allegedly making thousands of hoax phone calls to charities and the emergency services.

The Scots schoolboy was detained by detectives investigating an international campaign of nuisance calls.

Targets included fire brigades across the UK and even the Empire State Building in America.

More than 4,000 calls were made over the last year before they were finally traced to the youngster's home in Edinburgh.

On one day alone more than 300 fake emergency calls were made to Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade.

Police suspect the boy may have used computer software to repeat dial the numbers.

Charity helplines for the bereaved and disabled were also bombarded with calls, leaving people in need of help unable to get through.

Some charity volunteers who manned the helplines were so distressed by the nuisance calls that they quit.

Investigations were co-ordinated by Lothian and Borders Police once it was established that a single caller was responsible.

The 12-year-old suspect was detained last Friday and a computer and telephone equipment were seized from the house during the raid.

He was questioned and a report will be sent to the Children's Panel Reporter and the procurator fiscal. A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "These calls not only tied up vital phone lines for emergency services but also left some charity staff so upset they gave up their jobs.

"The high volume of calls that some of the charities received so frustrated staff that they had to close down phone lines.

"Obviously this had a very detrimental effect, not only on the charity workers but on people with genuine problems who relied on these phone line services."

Lines needed for genuine emergency calls were tied up and some charity lines brought almost to a standstill by the hoaxer.

The 999 lines were never totally blocked but operators had to answer every call in case one involved a real emergency.

Firefighters from an English brigade were also mobilised after another malicious report of a non-existent blaze.

A Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: "Hoax callers forget that fire engines can't be in two places at once and that wasted minutes and seconds cost lives.

"They should also remember that it could be their friends and family who really need the fire brigade."

CAPTION(S):

TALL TALE: Call went to Empire State in New York
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 5, 2003
Words:401
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