PICTOU – The young person who called in the bomb threat to the Aberdeen Hospital in May watched the evacuation from the nearby McDonalds.
The 14-year-old, sentenced Tuesday to 12 months’ custody for the act, admitted to police that he made the call from a payphone at Zellers, said Crown attorney Jody McNeill, because he and his friends thought it would be "fun" to watch what happened.
McNeill said the young person, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, initially didn’t want to make the phone call, but when his friends called him a derogatory term, he decided to go ahead.
After getting the phone number from 411, he called the switchboard and said there were five bombs in the building that would go off in 25 minutes.
McNeill told Pictou provincial court Tuesday that police were later able to obtain video recordings of the youth entering the department store and making the phone call.
The switchboard operator contacted police and the building was evacuated in 21 minutes. An RCMP dog from Halifax was brought in to search the building.
The teen and his friends watched first from McDonalds and then moved to a nearby church to view the rest of the evacuation.
However, the young person later told police that he “felt sick about it” once he saw “the old people coming out.”
A total of 94 patients, as well as staff, were evacuated from the Aberdeen for nine hours on May 30, costing the Pictou County Health Authority $18,000 in overtime and $57,000 in Emergency Health Services costs, including the cost of the medical command post, disaster trailers, 12 ambulances, ambulance transports, air ambulance transports, food and accommodations.
Other costs included $3,500 for police; $3,700 for the fire department; and unknown amounts of lost revenue for Lawtons, which opened its doors to the patients and staff during the evacuation.
The teen, who was a resident of the Bridges program in Plymouth, woke up the next morning asking to see a newspaper and watch the news on television – actions described as out of character for him – "presumably to see the media coverage" of the evacuation, McNeill said.
He later confessed to his grandmother, who contacted authorities. He also admitted his involvement to a worker at the Bridges program, telling him he didn’t want to go back to jail, McNeill said.
The teen was on probation at the time and had 23 prior findings of guilt, including three threat charges, nine breaches of probation, assault, arson, mischief and possession of stolen property.
Because of the prior history and the severity of the charge, McNeill argued for a period in custody, saying that it was “such an egregious set of facts that the community would be shocked” if it didn’t include time in custody.
He referred to a victim impact statement filed by Pat Lee, chief executive officer of the Pictou County Health Authority, which outlined the impact the bomb threat had on the Aberdeen Hospital patients and staff.
McNeill highlighted the case of Marilyn Alexander, who had passed away earlier in the day and wanted to donate her corneas to people in need.
“Despite the efforts of her family, they were unable to do that because of the evacuation,” McNeill told the court. “Obviously, that had a devastating impact.”
But, he added, all 94 patients involved have their own story.
“No doubt all these patients have an anecdotal story to tell,” he said. “The wide-sweeping impact on employees and patients, but not just them, but broadly, society in general.”
Defence attorney Steve Robertson agreed that custody was warranted in this “very serious” case, but said the teen has had a difficult life.
“He’s 14.5 years old… he’s a very young person who committed a very serious offence,” Robertson said. “His own father is only 31, so you can do the math. His parents separated when he was only four, he was raised by his grandparents who he still speaks to, his grandmother is the one he called to tell he did do this, he opened up to her. His grandparents had little control over him and he came and went as he pleased.”
When he was 12, Robertson said, the boy was apprehended and, over the past 2.5 years, has lived in 18 different places.
“Few success stories come from a start like that,” Robertson added. “All of the workers who deal with (the teen) had something good to say about him, he has good qualities, he can be very personable at times and got along well with his peers. He has it in him to be kind.”
While the teen thought it was great to see police cars and ambulances zooming by, he realized the impact of his actions when he saw “old people with tubes coming out of them on the front lawn” of the hospital, Robertson added.
During the lengthy sentencing hearing, the teen apologized for his actions.
“I’d just like to say I’m sorry for what I did. I didn’t want my actions to hurt people.”
Judge Del Atwood said he was satisfied the teen made the call with the intent to see the fallout, adding that an adult who did the same thing would serve more than four years in jail. Considering many patients have limited mobility or are in intensive care or maternity wards, the act constituted a threat to cause bodily harm, Atwood said.
Atwood sentenced the teen to 12 months in a youth criminal correctional facility for the uttering threats charge, following by six months of conditional supervision.
For the breach charge, Atwood said he normally would have ordered 90 days, but credited him for the 54 days he's spent in custody since his arrest. Instead, he was ordered to serve 24 days in custody and 12 days of conditional supervision consecutively to the threats charge.
Fifteen months of probation will follow the supervision order, and during that time, the teen will be required to abide by a 9 p.m. curfew unless he’s in the company of a guardian. He is also banned from possessing weapons for a two-year period and is required to provide a DNA sample.