§ Lord Mottistone
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have reviewed the maximum penalties for bomb hoaxes.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers):
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 18th February and 789 by 3rd March.
We have now concluded the review of maximum penalties for this offence announced by my right honourable friend the Minister of State during the Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill (Official Report, 25th February 1991, col. 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 their 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.