A 40 year-old Briton was sentenced to six months in jail yesterday for sending emails to relatives of those missing in the Asian tsunami disaster stating that their loved ones were dead.
Christopher Pierson was arrested after he sent 35 messages purporting to come from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to relatives requesting information on missing relatives and friends.
He culled the emails from the Sky News website and set up a special email account for the purpose, ukgovfofficeataol.com.
After calls from the public the police set up a special incident room to call and reassure those affected, at a cost of £10,000. Pierson was tracked down with the help of AOL, his internet service provider.
In a statement read out in court one of the victims said that Pierson's actions had caused suffering that was impossible to put into words.
Pierson pleaded guilty to offences under Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act. The defence claimed he had suffered a nervous breakdown and made a "quite bizarre effort to help" by giving relatives information.
But Judge Daphne Wickham said that his actions showed an element of planning and imposed a custodial sentence.
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