“Idiotic calls” putting Courier Country coastguards in danger

© PAA Coastguard helicopter was used in the search.
A Coastguard helicopter was used in the search.

Coastguards in Tayside and Fife are being plagued by hoax calls which are putting lives in danger.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) received 1,970 false alarms from across Scotland since 2016, with 123, or 6%, classed as hoaxes.

Some 397 calls were recorded between Stonehaven in the north and the southern mouth of the Forth, 20% of the Scottish total.

Malicious calls made up 7.3% of contacts, more than the Scottish average.

The MCA provides a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service around the UK coast, and international search and rescue through HM Coastguard.

There are local coastguard rescue teams in Stonehaven, Montrose, Arbroath, Carnoustie, St Andrews, and Leven.

Arbroath East and Lunan Conservative councillor Derek Wann said: “I find it incredible that there are people out there who would attempt to waste the time of this and other emergency services by making hoax calls.

“The coastguard service is a 24 hour search and rescue emergency service and relies on getting to the area of incident as quickly as possible.

“The number of hoax calls recorded is astonishing.”

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Conservative Andrew Bowie praised the “round-the-clock dedication” of paid and volunteer coastguards which often does not make the news.

He said: “Members of the public usually only hear about their brave exploits at cliff rescues or when taking part in multi-agency operations.

“But these figures confirm just how much work goes in to checking falls alarms, and unfortunately the extent to which their heroism can be abused.

“Each one of these idiotic calls could have put lives in danger, anywhere from the Mearns to Fife to North Berwick.”

The MCA said false alarms are classified as good intent or malicious intent by the officer who took the call.

The authorities warned hoax callers face up to six months in jail, and fines of up to £5,000.

Chris Thomas, deputy director of maritime operations with the MCA said: “If we get an emergency transmission, we always treat it as real.

“If we think someone’s in danger or trouble, we will always search for them rather than risk loss of life.

“We would take this opportunity to remind people that making deliberate, false or misleading calls is against the law and we treat it very seriously.

“We keep a record of these calls and hold those records as evidence for future prosecutions. Have no doubt – if you’ve been identified as making a hoax call, the MCA will seek to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”