People found guilty of hoax phone calls to emergency services face penalties of up to three years’ jail under Commonwealth law.
People found guilty of hoax phone calls to emergency services face penalties of up to three years’ jail under Commonwealth law.

A hoax call could get you jailed

HOAX calls to emergency services cost the taxpayer valuable money, could see the caller jailed for three years, and potentially lure resources away from critical incidents around the Gladstone region.

On Monday evening, six police cars were reported travelling with lights and sirens on, at high speed along the Dawson Highway toward the Gladstone CBD about 7pm.

Inquiries by The Observer through police media revealed the reported incident to possibly be a hoax call, as a spokeswoman had nothing on her computer system and could obtain no information from Gladstone police.

Making a hoax call to emergency services is a Commonwealth offence under the Telecommunication offences and other measures Act of 2004.

Section 474.18 of the act details the improper use of an emergency call service.

“A person is guilty of an offence if the person: (a) makes a call to an emergency service number; and (b) does so with the intention of inducing a false belief that an emergency exists.”

The maximum penalty applicable for the improper use of an emergency call service is three years’ imprisonment.

A Queensland Police Media spokeswoman said hoax calls waste the valuable time of emergency services.

“Hoax calls end up costing the police and ambulance services a lot of money and time in resources that could be used for real emergencies,” the spokeswoman said

“The act of making hoax calls is putting our local community at risk and police ask that if you know someone involved in this kind of activity to please report them via police link or crime stoppers.

Fines for hoax calls to the fire department cost a person/business an on the spot fine of $1351 as detailed on the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website.

“This is estimated to only cover a quarter of the actual cost of the call out,” the spokeswoman said.

In August, the University of Southern Queensland received a $300,000 state government grant under the COVID-19 Industry Research Fellowship which will be used to develop technology to help weed out hoax calls.

The system being developed will use artificial intelligence algorithms to determine stress levels in a caller’s voice.

It is hoped this technology will assist emergency services, call handlers and dispatchers to more easily identify hoax calls.


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