A MAN who called Cleveland Police anonymously and claimed a contract had been taken out on the head of a member of staff was handed a suspended prison sentence yesterday.

John Paul Kelley, of Middlesbrough, had previously admitted one charge of sending an electronic communication to cause distress or anxiety at Teesside Crown Court.

He had a chequered history of previous convictions, from impersonating a police officer to a criminal damage conviction, after an "incident with a car park barrier" outside James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. He had also appeared before the Crown Court 15 years ago for sending a threatening letter.

The court heard that Kelley, 54, had been planning on suing the police after they saved his life and that there was a "significant history of a troubled man".

In a pre-sentence report, his probation officer described him as a man who makes "excessive grandiose statements in order to get the attention that he feels he has been denied".

Judge Stephen Ashurst imposed a restraining order banning him from contacting the victim.

He said: "You called into Cleveland Police with an anonymous report that a woman there was at risk because a contract had been taken out on her.

"You claim you hadn't meant a contract in that sense and tried to mix it up with the claim you were bringing for compensation against the police.

"But shortly before Christmas you accepted you were guilty of this criminal offence.

"Cleveland Police have a duty of care to investigate something like this, and when the victim found out an anonymous call of this nature had been made, it is bound to cause considerable alarm."

He said Kelley, of Middlebeck Close, Middlesbrough, clearly had problems in relation to drink and also had bouts of ill health and deterioration in mental health.

"You have expressed remorse, however," he said.

"I agree you have a history of making grandiose statements with no intention of carrying them out. You get frustrated with life but you have more difficulty than others in coping.

"I share the doctor's anxiety in whether you would cope in a prison setting, but I think the threat of prison will help you stop offending."

He said he understood Kelley had been through some "distressing" life events.

He was given a nine month prison sentence, suspended for two years.