Teen who called in bomb hoaxes to his student halls in Sheffield for ‘attention’ is jailed

‘You caused 700 students to fear and panic they were about to be blown up,” a judge told a teenager as he jailed him for calling in two bomb hoaxes to his university halls in Sheffield.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 15th April 2019, 10:30 am
James Klaassen-White, 19, was jailed for 16 months, during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday, April 12
James Klaassen-White, 19, was jailed for 16 months, during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday, April 12

19-year-old James Klaassen-White remained silent as he was taken down to begin a 16-month prison sentence, during a hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court this morning.

The Sheffield Hallam University student admitted sending in two bomb hoaxes to his accommodation at the Central Quay building in Alma Street, Sheffield city centre in November last year at an earlier hearing.

As he jailed him, Judge David Dixon told Klaassen-White: “Causing 700 students to fear and panic they were about to be blown up is simply so serious that nothing other than custody can follow.”

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Central Quay student accommodation on Alma Street. Picture Scott Merrylees

He added: “You have caused some, if not considerable, fear to police operatives, police staff and security personnel who were just doing their job.”

Prosecutor, Richard Sheldon, told the court how Klaassen-White, a first-year computing student, made the first bomb hoax to South Yorkshire Police on November 27.

“He said he received threats via email indicating that someone was watching him and that there was a bomb in the building that he had until 1am to find. Officers attended, and he said there was no trace on the email and it had been sent from a specialist user,” said Mr Sheldon.

Police doubted Klaassen-White’s account and had concerns for his ‘mental health,’ the court heard.

Klaassen-White repeated the calls to police on the following day, claiming to have received further threats which stated that a bomb was going to go off at 1am.

After not receiving a visit from police, Klaassen-White, of Queensway, Scunthorpe went to the building’s security guards and told them there was a bomb in the building at around 12.50am that night.

“He said he had been told to set off the fire alarm. They refused to do it, so the defendant set it off himself,” said Mr Sheldon.

University staff and around 700 students living in the building were evacuated.

10 police officers and three firefighters were also called to the scene, while enquiries into the threat were carried out.

Klaassen-White was subsequently arrested by police.

“You admitted that you sent the emails to yourself because you wanted attention, because you were depressed, isolated and lonely, and this was a cry for attention and help,” said Judge Dixon.

Vanessa Saxton, defending, said psychiatric reports prepared for today’s sentencing hearing had proved inconclusive due to Klaassen-White’s young age; adding that the psychiatrist who had carried out the assessment had indicated there was the potential for the teen to be diagnosed with a personality disorder later in life.

Ms Saxton said Sheffield Hallam had agreed to allow Klaassen-White to sit his forthcoming exams, and said the student had managed to adhere to the electronic curfew that he had been subject to since last November.

“He is someone who is supported by his parents. He is obviously very anxious and fearful for the outcome of these proceedings, and has come prepared for custody,” said Ms Saxton and appealed for Judge Dixon to impose a suspended sentence.

Judge Dixon said he had taken all of the mitigating factors into consideration, but felt Klaaseen-White’s offending was so ‘serious’ that immediate custody was the only option.

“Regrettably, we live in a society where threats of bombs have to be taken extremely seriously. In the last 20 years there have been some horrific bomb attacks carried all across the country from extremist groups. Whenever authorities receive threats, it has to be considered extremely carefully,” added Judge Dixon.

Speaking after the hearing, a spokesman for Sheffield Hallam University said: “The University condemns this behaviour and the impact it had on fellow students, causing unnecessary fear and alarm.

“Now that sentence has been passed, the University will take steps under our formal disciplinary procedures.”

- South Yorkshire Police have been asked to provide a custody image of Klaassen-White