THE person behind the Festival Place bomb hoax will feel the full force of the law. 

That is the message from a councillor following Friday’s explosive scare at the shopping centre. 

Councillors have praised the emergency services for their ‘swift reaction’ after Festival Place was evacuated due to a bomb hoax. 

The shopping centre came to a standstill on Friday afternoon amid fears of an explosive planted in the public toilets. 

It was closed for three-and-a-half hours while customers and staff were forced to stand outside in cold conditions while with bomb disposal experts and sniffer dogs scoured the scene.

However, it later emerged the incident was a false alarm. 

Cllr Paul Harvey, deputy leader of the Independent Group, said police would be pursuing the individual behind the incident. 

He said: “This is a very serious issue and will not be taken lightly but the emergency services acted quickly and you cannot take risks with something as serious as this, the way they went about it was amazing we can’t thank them enough and we shouldn’t be taking things like these for granted.

“I really feel for the employees who work in Festival Place and the customers who have been left scared and confused from the aftermath of the incident.

“Rest assured the police will deal with the person responsible for this and they will feel the full force of the law thrust upon them.”

Cllr Diane Taylor, mayor of Basingstoke, said that while it was inconvenient for customers, the police’s response should be commended. 

She said: “Whilst I can understand that the face evacuation was inconvenient for many people, the police – who are responsible for the safety of the public – and Festival Place management acted promptly to ensure that the risk of injury was minimised.

“In situations such as this, which could have been a major incident, it is right that those people responsible for our safety air on the side of caution. It was a hoax this time, but that should never be assumed.

“The public should be confident that Festival Place is one of the safest shopping malls because of this swift reaction when there is a possible risk.”

One reader, Francesca Collingwood, said: “Thank god it was a hoax and well done to all the emergency services and festival place staff and shop staff for making everyone safe.”

Rose Digweed, added: ““Better to be safe than sorry, they’re doing a great job. Good on our servicemen.”

Others were angered by the waste of police time and resources which could have been better used elsewhere.

Gina Benson: “Idiots wasting valuable emergency services time and costing shops money due to closure.”

She added: “Thank goodness it was a hoax, but some idiot out there has been getting enjoyment out of watching all this unfold and scaring people, such a nut job. What is wrong with today’s society that they think this is funny? It makes my blood boil.”

While Katie Cooper said: “What is wrong with people? Shops have lost money, people were left frightened and most importantly the emergency services have been attending this when genuine people could have genuinely needed to use them – not to mention the financial loss to their already stretched budgets!”

Officers have confirmed that there is no risk to the public and that shopping can continue as planned.