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Bomb hoaxer escapes jail sentence

Time served: Robert Somner at the scene of the crime (Image by Akil Simmons)

A 36-year-old man who shut down the island’s courts with a hoax bomb threat escaped a jail sentence yesterday.

Robert Somner, who spent about a month behind bars before trial, was sentenced to time already served.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo told Somner, who pleaded guilty to the offence: “Hoax or no hoax, it’s serious. It caused damage. Financial damage and potentially other types of damage.”

But he added: “I’m satisfied that, given the facts, your detention for the last month has been sufficient punishment for this matter.

“I suspect that it won’t happen again.”

The court heard that Somner had been scheduled to appear in Magistrates’ Court on January 9 for a civil case connected to money he owed.

But he called 911 from a pay phone at about 9.20am that morning and claimed there was “a bomb in the court building”.

Police evacuated the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building on Court Street next to Global House, but no bomb was found.

Officers tracked the source of the call to the pay phone near the Hamilton bus terminal and CCTV footage showed the caller dressed in a blue hooded top, black pants and black sneakers.

Somner was spotted wearing the same clothes outside the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building in footage recorded by The Royal Gazette.

He admitted an attempt to pervert the course of justice and making a false statement on January 10 and was remanded in custody for a social inquiry report.

Marc Daniels, Somner’s lawyer, said his client had made a foolish decision because he feared that he would be jailed for his debts.

Mr Daniels said: “Mr Somner was before the court for other matters concerning debt.

“He expected that there was a very serious risk that he was going to go to prison.

“He had an interview with his employer and was a shoo-in for a better-paying job.

“He was hopeful that if he could get the position, he would be in a better position to make his payments.”

Mr Daniels added Somner should have gone to court and explained his position, but emphasise and sleep deprivation led him to make a poor choice.

He said Somner was educated, employed, had shown remorse and had the support of his family.

Mr Daniels added Somner’s month in prison had been a “short, sharp shock” and if any other penalty was needed his client was prepared to do community service.

Somner told Mr Tokunbo: “I have had more than enough time to manage my thoughts and clear my mind. I’m in a far better position mentally.

“I know what I did caused inconvenience for the courts, the government offices and the emergency services.”

He added: “I’m sorry for what I did. This is not part of my true character. It was a one-off situation.”

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