TWO drunken yobs sparked a massive rescue operation costing thousands of pounds after they climbed Sunderland’s Wearmouth Bridge.
The pair refused to come down from the bridge, after scaling it late one night in February.
Specialist police negotiators had to be drafted in and more than 30 emergency workers were called to the scene.
Gavin Sproat, 28, eventually climbed to safety, but pal Darren Rowe, 24, clambered up even higher, before eventually agreeing to come down.
The pair were arrested and appeared at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, where they pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance.
Paul Anderson, prosecuting, said events began to unfold shortly after midnight on February 2.
He said: “They came to the attention of a passing ambulance, as they were above the north-bound carriageway of the bridge.
“Police and the fire service were called. They were asked to come back down, but refused to do so.
“Police negotiators were called and the bridge was closed for about an hour.
“It was fortunately the time it was, or it would have been a greater disruption.”
Mr Anderson added that the pair’s drunken prank led to eight paramedics, 12 firefighters and 12 police officers being scrambled.
“All of those persons would have been better employed doing legitimate work,” he said. “The defendants could not think of an excuse for why they had done it, only that they were extremely drunk and they could not remember the reason for it, other than Mr Sproat said he had stuff going through his head.”
Representing Sproat, Angus Westgarth said he had entered a guilty plea at a hearing in March, when magistrates agreed to defer sentencing until this week.
He had kept out of trouble since then and was working with the Probation Service.
Willie Johnstone, defending Rowe, said he had been diagnosed with ADHD and autism.
He had been caught with cannabis since his sentence was deferred but was now alcohol and drugs free.
District Judge Helen Cousins blasted the pair for wasting the time of the emergency services.
She told Rowe, from Argyle Square in Ashbrooke: “Not only was it very dangerous for yourself, it was dangerous for other people and it took 20-odd personnel away from their duties, when other people might have needed their assistance.”
But she praised him for dealing with this drug and alcohol problems and ordered he obey a 28-day curfew from 8pm-8am and pay £85 court costs.
She ordered Sproat, of Telford Road, serve a six-month community order with supervision, after hearing he was doing well on a court order imposed in January for an offence of criminal damage.
She added: “You took essential resources away from others and for that I have to punish you.”
Speaking after the hearing, Dave Brown, group manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Whilst our crews are dealing with incidents like this they are not available to attend genuine emergencies.
“This means that our firefighters may not be available to attend a house fire or road traffic collision where someone’s life is really at risk.”
Inspector Scott Berry, from Northumbria Police, said: “This sort of mindless foolhardiness diverted emergency services from dealing with actual emergencies.
“This behaviour is irresponsible and reckless. If they had fallen from the bridge, the end result could have been very different.”