Jail term for lifeboat hoax caller

Mr Munro was jailed after a trial at Portree Sheriff Court Photo: RNLI/Richard Smith

A laughing hoax caller who was jailed for sending a lifeboat on a ‘wild goose chase’ has been criticised by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Alasdair Maxwell Munro, 55, was sentenced to four months after he was found guilty of making a hoax call to HM Coastguard which cost the emergency services thousands of pounds to investigate.

The RNLI Mallaig lifeboat with a crew of seven volunteers spent nearly three hours at sea in worsening weather conditions at night in a bid to find a yacht which Mr Munro had claimed was in trouble in Loch Hourn.

But no yacht was found, no one was in need of help and Mr Munro’s actions then led to a lengthy judicial process which finally ended at Portree Sheriff Court this week where he was found guilty after a two-day trial.

Police, coastguard officers and the RNLI were called to give evidence at the trial where Mr Munro conducted his own defence.

Sheriff James Scott told widower Mr Munro, of Kyleakin: “To be responsible for a false call leading to a lifeboat to be launched in weather conditions far from ideal is a very serious matter.”

The trial heard that Munro was laughing when he made the malicious alarm on 30th October, 2013 — and he also laughed in court which led to a reprimand from the sheriff.

The cost of the false call and the subsequent criminal proceedings runs into tens of thousands of pounds and Mr Munro told the sheriff: “All I can do is to apologise for the inconvenience that has been caused.”

The RNLI warned that his reckless actions had wasted the time of a volunteer crew and wasted money donated by fundraisers.

Richard Smith, the RNLI’s spokesman in Scotland, said: ‘The charity hopes that the sentence handed down by the sheriff leaves people in no doubt that the courts take hoax calls extremely seriously.

“This was a highly irresponsible act by Mr Munro. Our volunteer crew at Mallaig were sent out on what was effectively a wild goose chase. Our resources were spent on a malicious call and, if a real distress call had been given elsewhere, then we would have had difficulty in attending it and the life of someone in genuine distress could have been at risk.”