Student spared jail over shopping centre bomb threats

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An Apple store shop assistant has been spared jail after he made hoax bomb threats to a shopping centre because he wanted the day off work.

University student Arjunbir Soin used his own mobile phone to make four calls on December 30 last year, claiming there were five bombs in the Churchill Square Shopping Centre in Brighton, East Sussex.

The 21-year-old had been struggling to cope with his studies and shifts at the store so hoped the threats would cause the building to be evacuated, Lewes Crown Court heard on Thursday.

Judge Christine Laing said sentencing reports suggested Soin had been put under “ridiculous pressure” to achieve but his repeated and persistent hoax calls were “deeply unimpressive”.

She added: “You need to learn to think more carefully. These are very serious offences. We live in troubled times with a lot of terrorist incidents.

“You made these calls simply because you were unable to cope with your own life at the time and wanted the day off work.”

Lewes Crown Court stock
Arjunbir Soin was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court (Tom Pugh/PA)

He made the calls from his car and in the toilet during his shift.

At 9.04am he phoned Jurgita Endrijaityte on the shopping centre’s customer service desk and told her there were five bombs in the centre.

He ended the call when she asked where they were but called back about an hour later to ask if she had found them.

When nothing happened, he targeted staff at River Island and Costa in the afternoon as well as calling the shopping centre’s operations manager, Sam McLean, to say: “You don’t take bomb threats very seriously, do you?” before repeating the threat and hanging up.

Security staff were alerted but the building was not evacuated and no stores were shut.

He was arrested after police traced the calls to his phone and played him recordings of the conversations.

Ms Lindop said: “He explained he had some issues with university and that he wanted the day off. He didn’t know how to ask his work and had used up his holiday. He wasn’t in the mood to go to work.

“[He said] he didn’t want to scare or hurt anyone and he was not a terrorist.”

The court heard that he described the incident as a “stupid, huge mistake” for which he could not forgive himself, and feared his family would “disown” him.

After admitting five counts of communicating false information through a bomb hoax, Soin, of Culpepper Close, Brighton, was handed eight-month jail sentences for each charge, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to work for 300 hours unpaid and take part in a rehabilitation course.

Judge Laing then directed her comments to his parents, who were in court, adding: “They need to understand that, whatever hopes, dreams and aspirations they have for you, they need to look at what has been happening to you and make sure you get the help and support that is required.”

His mother burst into tears at the end of the hearing and collapsed on the floor outside afterwards.

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