§ Mr. Ian Bruce
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now reviewed the maximum penalties for bomb hoaxes; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
A bomb hoax is an irresponsible waste of other people's time and effort, which can cause massive disruption and endanger lives by making it more difficult to identify and to respond to genuine warnings. Eighty-four hoax calls were received in the 24 hours following the Paddington and Victoria bombs on Monday 18 February and 789 by 3 March.
We have now concluded the review of maximum penalties for this offence announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State during Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill, Official Report, 25 February 1991, column 689.
We shall table an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill proposing to increase a magistrate's power to imprison a person found guilty of a bomb hoax from three months to a maximum of six months. We also propose to increase the maximum penalty from five to seven years in prison if the case goes to the Crown court. This is a clear indication of the seriousness with which we view this offence.