It is an offence to give false information to the police.
Section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 provides:
‘Where a person causes any wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making to any person a false report tending to show that an offence has been committed, or to give rise to apprehension for the safety of any persons or property, or tending to show that he has information material to any police inquiry [commits an offence].’
This offence is punishable with up to 6 months imprisonment.
Before a person can be prosecuted the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is required. In practical terms, this means that the police cannot charge the offence without the prior permission of the Crown Prosecution Service (as Crown Prosecutors can consent on the DPPs behalf).
That, however, is not necessarily the end of the story.
There is a significant overlap between this offence and the offence of perverting the course of justice, which may also be committed in some instances where a false report to the police is made.
This much more serious offence, very often resulting in a lengthy term of imprisonment, may be considered where the intent behind the initial report was more considered and the consequences of the false report have gone beyond a mere waste of police resources, so for example where a large scale police operation has been put into place, or a person has been arrested as a result of the false report.