Abusing 111 phone line ends in five months’ jail

A three-day drinking binge has led to a Dunedin man being jailed  for repeatedly calling the emergency services phone line.

Jason Gary O’Malley (38) has been before the Dunedin District Court in the past for similar nuisance offending but, according to Judge Michael Crosbie, "nothing has worked".

When he was sentenced in June for using a phone for fictitious purposes, he received a sentence of community work and supervision.

On that occasion Judge Kevin Phillips said sending the defendant to prison would be a "futile exercise" but he warned him the court was running out of options.

Yesterday, the court heard how O’Malley had all but disregarded both elements of the sentence — barely ever attending counselling or the community work centre.

He had pleaded guilty to six charges of using a phone for fictitious purposes, which his counsel Chris Lynch said stemmed from "a binge-drinking episode".

"The crux of his problem is alcohol; he accepts that it it’s an ongoing battle," she said.

It was a battle O’Malley was losing on August 1 when he called 111 drunk at 11.18pm.

He wanted to chat because he was "lonely", he said.

The call taker gave him phone numbers for several organisations, as they had in the past.

But two hours later, O’Malley was back on the phone intoxicated and incomprehensible.

He said he did not trust the police but he continued to dial 111.By 5.09am on August 2, he was told he would be arrested if he continued the incessant calling.

Probation called him and gave him the numbers of various support hotlines and police visited and warned him against continuing the pattern of phone calls.

There was a 13-hour respite for emergency services but O’Malley got back in touch, telling them he wanted to speak about historical family issues.

A couple of calls later and police went to his Brockville home where they found him intoxicated and "largely unintelligible".

O’Malley could not provide an explanation for his behaviour.

Ms Lynch said in some ways her clients’ time in custody had been a blessing because it had allowed him to dry out.

The court had no option but to jail the man, Judge Crosbie said, and it would be the same result if he continued playing up on release.

"If you just keep ringing in, abusing the emergency-services line ... you’ll get locked up every time."

"These services are there to help people ... they’re dealing with life-threatening situations, natural disasters and sometimes they’re frantically busy. They are not there to deal with people like you."

O’Malley was jailed for five months with six months of release conditions.