A JOURNALIST who lied to the emergency services during a string of phone calls shortly after the Cumbria floods last year could face prison.

Magistrates at the West Allerdale and Keswick court found Sarah Louise Crickmer, 27, of Brass Thill Way, South Shields, guilty of two counts of sending false messages by a public electronic communication network to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety.

Chairman of the bench John Abernethy said the evidence that Crickmer had contacted mountain rescues with a fabricated story about a man being injured on Skiddaw was "absolutely compelling".

He added: "We are not ruling out any option and that includes custody."

Crickmer, who has issues with alcohol, did not appear at the two-day trial, which ended yesterday, because she had suffered a relapse.

The court heard that the freelance journalist had been drinking at the Lyzzick Hall Hotel at Underskiddaw before she made three phone calls to Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team deputy leader Julian Carradice about the fake emergency, along with two calls to police, prompting 30 Keswick rescuers to spend an hour and a half preparing for a rescue.

Police officers went to the hotel to question Crickmer after mountain rescuers became suspicious and found her sleeping in the hotel lounge.

PC Karen Clark said: "She laughed when I woke her up. She smelt of alcohol but she didn't come across as being drunk.

"She had given garbled information and I wanted to clarify it."

She said Crickmer had told her she had spoken to some walkers near the hotel who said a member of their party had broken his leg on the mountain and rescuers were not responding.

PC Clark added: "It didn't make any sense. She took no names or details from the walkers. It didn't seem true. I didn't believe her at all."

Crickmer eventually confessed after PC Clark and colleague PC Jim Gow continued to question her and asked if she was lying.

PC Clark said: "She was very animated, she was very angry and screamed 'I'm a liar. I made it up'."

Crickmer was arrested and Keswick Mountain Rescue Team leader Mark Hodgson stood down the rescuers, some of whom had been waiting at the foot of Skiddaw for details of the location.

Forensic officers examined Crickner's laptop and found a pre-written article on it which began "Mountain rescuers were said to be mortified" and evidence that she had been researching the area's geography.

No defence case was given as Crickmer's solicitor Christian Harbinson withdrew from the case before the evidence began, following discussion with the defendant.

He had tried to get the case adjourned but magistrates refused the request.

After the verdict, a warrant was issued for Crickmer's arrest and magistrates' requested a probation service report.

The case was adjourned to a date to be fixed.