A Whalsay teenager has been warned he could be facing up to two years in prison for making a hoax mayday call onboard a fishing boat last year.
The coastguard helicopter was scrambled after David Williamson, 19, of Millbrook in Symbister, made a misleading message over the VHF radio onboard the Crystal River berthed at Whalsay Harbour on 3rd October, claiming a man had fallen overboard. The Lerwick Lifeboat was sent to the scene and the Whalsay coastguard team was also mobilised to help carry out a search.
Today’s court heard both helicopter and lifeboat were required for a genuine incident at Sumburgh Head later in the day. It was only by good fortune that the incident didn’t coincide with the hoax perpetrated by Williamson.
Sheriff Graeme Napier wasted no time in warning Williamson: “I have read the charges and it’s clearly a serious matter. The maximum sentence available is a sentence of two years.”
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie told the court: “It would be difficult to conceive of a more serious contravention of this specific type of offence. His [Williamson’s] actions led to the coastguard helicopter being launched, and the lifeboat being launched from Lerwick, and the coastguard rescue team being deployed in Whalsay.
“Later that same day both the helicopter and the lifeboat were required for a serious incident at Sumburgh Head, where somebody had fallen off the cliffs. Had that accident happened earlier in the day, these resources would have been deployed following up that hoax.”
The court heard that Williamson, who has been on bail pending the outcome of today’s case, had complied with the terms of the court order. The case was continued for a community service report and restriction of liberty assessment to be compiled.
Sheriff Napier released Williamson on bail, but told him it was “entirely likely” he would be going to jail. “This is a very serious matter – you must understand that. I’ll allow you your liberty at present and call for reports from the social work department.
“You should be under no illusions that, given the seriousness of this offence, it is entirely likely that the outcome will be a custodial sentence.”
Williamson will appear again on 7th July.