'A drain on society' - court refuses to criminalise retired NHS worker who made 1,000 nuisance calls to 999
PUBLISHED: 15:19 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:17 30 March 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
A 72-year-old retired NHS worker has escaped a criminal behaviour order despite becoming a "drain on society" by making more than 1,000 nuisance calls to emergency services.
Linda Perren has previously been issued a community protection notice (CPN) forbidding her from contacting her GP, 999, 101, 111 or Medicom, unless in the event of an emergency.
It came after she cost the East of England Ambulance Service alone more than £26,000 after asking for unnecessary ambulances and wasting call handlers time.
Perren, of Roberts Close, Hempnall, had been bombarding GPs and emergency services with unwarranted calls since 2017.
She has since had a special allocation scheme put in place for a point of contact to arrange medication and appointments - but continued calling 999.
In the 12 months from September 2017 to September 2018 nearly 1,000 calls were made resulting in 44 call-outs and a cost to the NHS in excess of £26,000.
Norwich Magistrates Court heard on Friday that the previous evening 20 further calls had been made to 999.
Mark Jackson, prosecuting, said: “It seems there is no other option in respect of Mrs Perren.
“The cost to the public purse runs into the tens of thousands in terms of tying up emergency operators with these calls.”
The court heard evidence from Lauren Paddon, anti-social behaviour co-ordinator at Norfolk Police.
She has been dealing with Perren since August and said all other options had been exhausted.
“The calls have continued, with 20 calls made to 999 and ambulance overnight,” she said. “The ambulance service are on Surge One, which means they have calls outstanding and are not able to deal with the number of calls coming in.
“I have sat with Linda for many hours talking through future possibilities. She has refused sheltered accommodation and people have had to disengage from her because the calls have been relentless.
“Age UK have closed down their services to her because they have tried everything with her and she won’t accept anything offered.”
But Rob New, defending Perren, said: “The criminal justice system is not the appropriate place to fix this.”
He said putting in place a CBO would make any future breaches punishable with up to five years in prison, for a woman who suffers personality disorder and acute anxiety.
“It is not in any dispute that Mrs Perren has been nothing short of a drain on society,” he told the court.
“The very fact you are dealing with someone who has racked up this expense tells you how extreme and unusual this sort of behaviour is.
“People do not do this unless or until something has gone horribly wrong. With Mrs Perren, something has gone horribly wrong with her health.
“She believes what she is doing is correct and she should be able to access greater medical assistance than she is getting.
“If you impose this order today it will not stop her continuing her behaviour. This is a 72-year-old woman with unquestionably problematic mental health issues.
“Sending her to prison will cost that money and more, and will do no good.”
Magistrates rejected the application for a CBO on the grounds it would not prevent her calling 999 and they did not want to criminalise a 72-year-old in poor health.