A PROTESTER who cost taxpayers £15,000 when he climbed on top of Wearmouth Bridge has been jailed.
David Hann planned to spend the night on top of the bridge and cause maximum disruption to rush-hour commuters the next morning.
The 45-year-old had scaled the structure at 9pm on March 8, hoping to use his overnight stand-off as a way to highlight a feud with Sunderland City Council.
But he was persuaded to come down at about 2am – in return for a cigarette.
By then police, ambulance, fire brigade and coastguard services had been drafted in.
Hann, of Toward Road, Hendon, denied a charge of causing a public nuisance, but he was convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court in August.
He was back in court yesterday, where Judge Roger Thorn jailed him for 32 months for the bridge offence, an unrelated affray and breach of suspended sentences.
The judge said Hann’s climbing on to the busy bridge caused “substantial disruption” and cost the public £15,000.
Judge Thorn told him: “You caused no actual harm to anybody but certainly caused apprehension of harm to others and especially to yourself.
“There was very substantial disruption to this main arterial road in and out of Sunderland.
“Effectively all major bus companies were affected, a large number of buses were involved.
“Police negotiators and all emergency services, including the inshore lifeboat and full lifeboat crew, were in attendance.”
During the trial, prosecutor Roger Moore said it was “cold, blustery and wet” when Hann climbed on top of Wearmouth Bridge.
He added: “A large number of local inhabitants were fairly inconvenienced by this man’s behaviour.
“The reason why he was on the bridge was to publicise, or make known to all and sundry, the difficulties he was having.
“He decided this was the way in which he was going to air his grievance or bring attention to it, by climbing on to the bridge.
“He chose this deliberately in order to cause disturbance, as much as he could.
“It would seem his intention was not just to go up and come down.
“He was going to sleep right through the night and then catch the really busy morning traffic and cause absolute chaos.”
The court heard emergency services used a cherry picker to get close to Hann at the top of the bridge, and convinced him to use a harness to strap himself to the metal structure and prevent himself from falling.
Hann agreed to that, which meant the road could be re-opened.
However, Mr Moore said: “As soon as he realised what was going on, that he was no longer disrupting it, he took the harness off, threw it down on to the road and continued his clambering around so the bridge had to be closed again.”
The court heard it was about 2am Hann started asking for a cigarette.
Mr Moore said: “He was told the only way he could have it was if he came down.
“Eventually he came down for a cigarette and he was arrested.”
Christopher Morrison, defending, said there was no evidence the emergency services were kept from any other incident due to Hann’s behaviour that night.