Man accused of bomb hoax which cleared Drake Circus shopping centre in Plymouth
A MAN has appeared in court accused of a bomb hoax that saw hundreds of people evacuated from the city's biggest shopping centre.
James Batty appeared at Plymouth Magistrates' Court yesterday via video link from HMP Exeter, where he is being held in custody.
The 23-year-old is accused of communicating information to a Drake Circus staff member, which he knew to be false, with the intention of inducing a false belief that a bomb was present within the busy shopping centre.
The charge relates to a bomb scare at Drake Circus on October 31 last year, when a suspicious package was found at BB's Restaurant.
As The Herald reported at the time, the alleged incident meant hundreds of shoppers and staff had to leave the centre for over an hour, waiting out in the cold for it to reopen.
The fire service attended the scene as well as the police, and a 50-metre cordon was put in place.
Royal Navy bomb disposal teams examined the package and found it to be safe. Plymouth Methodist Central Hall also opened its doors to offer hot drinks and snacks to staff and shoppers.
At the time, Minister Paul Smith said: "We saw they were evacuating so we thought we would open our doors. It was a bit like the war."
Batty, of Corfe Crescent, in Torquay, faces eight other charges.
These include two counts of burglary from the Parchment store in Drake Circus Shopping Centre on October 12 and 13 last year.
Batty also faces a charge of sending a threatening text message on November 9 last year. He is also accused of breaching a community order relating to five alleged fraud offences, all said to have been committed on February 5 last year in Stockport and Macclesfield.
Batty is accused of committing fraud by making a false representation on five separate occasions, for sums of £300, £113.50, £113.50, £341.51 and £265.
No pleas were entered at yesterday's hearing. Batty will appear via video link at the court again on March 22, when the case is due to be committed to the city's Crown Court.