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Teen with autism spared jail time after making hoax bomb calls to US

Ben Megarry made the calls to schools, airports and businesses in the US in 2012.

Image: hand holding phone image via Shutterstock

A TEENAGER IN Northern Ireland who admitted making hoax bomb threats to schools, airports and businesses in the US has been spared jail time.

Ben Megarry faced 23 charges of making calls to a variety of institutions in the US in 2012, including Columbine High School.

The 19-year-old was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome two years after he made the calls. Today he was sentenced to two years’ probation and 70 hours of community service, having pleaded guilty to making the bomb threats.

BBC reports Megarry wept when he was told he would avoid jail time.

His solicitor Michael Madden said the young man and his mother wanted to thank the court for taking the time to fully consider all the relevant factors and to proactively seek clarification of the complex features of this case.

The court stressed that normally a lengthy custodial sentence would be passed for these types of offences, however, by taking into consideration Ben’s lowered culpability due to his youth, undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, social immaturity and susceptibility to others, a non-custodial sentence is appropriate in this case.

Madden said Megarry had “expressed his genuine remorse to the court” and noted the case highlights the difficulties families and schools face in identifying young people who are on the autism spectrum.

“The lesson to be learnt from this case is that early diagnosis of autism is paramount to enable proper support and intervention to be obtained in order to prevent any further heartbreak to other families and members of the public.”

Read: Spate of bomb hoaxes sees primary schools evacuated in five counties>

Read: ‘A despicable act’: About five people a week make hoax calls to Dublin Fire Brigade>

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