R v Lowrie [2005] 1 CR App R (S) 95

Public Nuisance – Hoax Calls – Criminal Offence – Sentencing


The defendant had made a series of repeatedly false calls to the emergency services.  This was a consistent form of behaviour for the defendant which had begun when he was just 7 years old.  He had been arrested before under the Telecommunications Act 1984 and sentenced to a supervision order.  However, after the expiry of this order he continued to make hoax calls of this nature.  He was eventually arrested and charged with the common law offense of committing a public nuisance.  He had previous convictions for the offence, and pleaded guilty.  He was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.  This sentence was appealed.


Was the defendant guilty of the common law offence of public nuisance?  Whether the sentence imposed by the trial judge was manifestly unjust or excessive.


The appeal was dismissed.  The defendant had been guilty of public nuisance by virtue of his repeated and false calls, and the defendant had not ceased making these calls even after being convicted.  Prison was clearly not a deterrent for the defendant, but the public were threatened as a result of his actions, and even with out-patient psychiatric care and counselling it was considered unlikely that the defendant would not re-offend and so put the public at further risk.  The fact that the nuisance occurred indiscriminately and could affect the population at large and place them in danger or discomfort as a result fulfilled the criminal offence of public nuisance, as was seen by the emergency responses that had been conducted in the past as a result of his hoax calls.  As the court considered that nothing could be done that would help the defendant and prevent him from re-offending, the appeal had to be dismissed.