'˜Exceptionally lenient' judge spares bomb hoaxer from jail

A woman who made more than 50 hoax bomb calls has narrowly escaped going to jail when she was ordered to spend two years on probation.

Joanne Mitchell leaves Antrim Crown Court after receiving two years probation

Freeing 44-year-old Joanne Elizabeth Mitchell at Antrim Crown Court having taken what he said was “an exceptionally lenient course,” Judge Desmond Marrinan told her that had it not been for her significant mental health issues, “I would have been sending you to prison for up to 18 months”.

In addition to the probation order, the judge also imposed a 30-month Anti-Social Behaviour Order which bars Mitchell from owning or using any device which has internet access or Wi-Fi capability.

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“I hope you take his chance I’m offering you because if you come back before me you will be going to prison for 18 months at least,” warned Judge Marrinan.

Scales of justice.

Mitchell, from Greenview Avenue in Antrim, had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of causing bomb hoaxes by communicating information she knew to be false to Crimestoppers on February 17 and September 25 last year.

Prosecuting lawyer Michael Chambers said while there were single counts on two separate bills of indictment, there were also “well over 50 counts of her doing the same thing” to be “taken into consideration”.

The prosecution also revealed that Mitchell was in breach of two suspended sentences arising from other incidents in Belfast and Enniskillen, adding that the large majority of the entries on her eight-page criminal record were for causing bomb hoaxes.

Submitting that Mitchell’s offences while serious “were not the most difficult to investigate,” defence barrister Richard McConkey said the best way to describe them were unsophisticated, “a waste of time and a waste of money”.

Scales of justice.

He said Mitchell had spent a “very long eight weeks” on remand before getting bail, adding that while in prison “she was subjected to significant bullying” but that since her release, Mitchell is receiving therapeutic care from mental health services.

“If she’s put back into custody it may do more harm than good as it would cost the public purse to keep her there and would interrupt the help she’s getting,” he said.