Ipswich gun claim couple must pay police £1,000 in compensation after armed response

Pair claimed a neighbour in Wellington Street, Ipswich had a gun

Pair claimed a neighbour in Wellington Street, Ipswich had a gun - Credit: Archant

A couple who sparked a full-scale armed police response over gun claims must pay £1,000 compensation to Suffolk Constabulary.

A 999 call led to firearms officers and dog units sealing off the area around Wellington Street, Ipswich, where Christopher Garcia and Emma Smith lived in neighbouring flats, for fear of someone being shot.

When the pair appeared before South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court they each pleaded guilty to causing wasteful employment of the police on September 8.

Smith, 41, made the emergency call shortly after 11am, although Garcia, 43, then began speaking to the call taker.

Smith then said they had both been drinking and they had seen a gun.

Garcia was heard in the background saying it was a rifle.

Smith reportedly said she had just come in and then hung up.

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Garcia was said to have called back saying he was intending to shoot someone and then hung up again.

Police called back and spoke to Smith who said it was a neighbour who had a gun.

Smith and Garcia told officers they had seen a neighbour holding a gun. Garcia admitted to officers that he was drunk.

Although a search was carried out no firearm was found.

Magistrates gave them each a 12-month community order and told them to pay £500 compensation to Suffolk Constabulary.

Each must also pay a £150 criminal courts charge and £60 to the victims’ fund.

Garcia must also undergo a six-month alcohol treatment programme.

After the case Superintendent Kerry Cutler, who oversees policing in Ipswich, said: “Following initial calls reporting that a gun had been seen and that someone was going to be shot at a property at Wellington Street police, including armed officers, dog handlers and response teams, were sent to the scene.

“Due to the nature of the allegations, roads were closed as a precaution and the occupant of a nearby flat had his home searched as, from Smith and Garcia’s report, officers believed he may have a firearm.

“Any reports such as this, where lives may be at risk, are taken seriously and full resources are deployed to safeguard the public, however it soon became clear that the calls had been false and Garcia and Smith were subsequently arrested and charged.

“In addition to wasting the time of the officers who attended, incidents like this take valuable resources from other areas and can cause fear and distress to members of the public.

“Police made reassurance patrols in the area after the incident as we recognise that the presence of armed officers and an operation of this scale can be concerning.

“We are pleased that this incident has been treated seriously by the court and that the payment to the Constabulary will go some way to recovering the public money wasted on this incident. Where there is evidence of false allegations police will take action, including prosecution if appropriate.”