A WOMAN who sparked a major terror alert in London with a series of hoax 999 calls has been jailed - after begging a judge to put her behind bars.

Claire McMenemy has more than 40 convictions, including making hoax calls to police and the fire service from public phone boxes in Burnley, over almost 25 years.

McMenemy’s latest hoax saw police and medics race to Victoria Coach Station after she claimed explosives were stashed in the vicinity.

She made numerous 999 calls on January 6 this year, also pretending to have seen a man brandishing a gun and twice claiming there was a body in the lake in St James Park.

In 2011, she made a 999 call from a phone box in St James's Street, Burnley, claiming she had been attacked in the street at 4.50am.

Uniformed officers were sent out but when they arrived no such incident had taken place.

This was followed by another call at just after 5am from a phone booth in Keirby Walk, Burnley, with the caller claiming they were being pursued by a gunman.

The 44-year-old, who moved to London in recent years, has served several prison sentences including a three-year term for claiming there was a bomb at Heathrow Airport.

She was released just months before striking again, Southwark Crown Court heard.

She was caught red-handed at the phone box in Buckingham Palace Road, close to the station in south west London.

Prosecutor Kevin Barry told the hearing: “Unsurprisingly that caused a significant emergency services response which wasn't stood down until an hour later, when all the necessary checks had been made.”

Mr Barry said McMenemy had an 'exceptional record' for offences of this nature, adding: “I for one have never seen anything like this number of previous convictions of this type. The offending dates back 25 years on a regular basis.”

In a letter to the court, McMenemy, who suffers from borderline personality disorder, apologised for her behaviour.

She said: “I would like to say I would prefer a longer sentence as I know this way I can address my problems.”

Sentencing her to 12 months in prison, Judge Anthony Pitts told her: “I have no doubt you have had problems in your life. These hoax calls are a way of, in some ways, drawing attention to yourself and your plight. It’s said that prison is the only place you feel safe. I hope that will not always be the case for the rest of your life. But I cannot pass a disproportionate sentence on you just because you want me to. A custodial sentence is inevitable but the longest sentence I can pass is 12 months.”

Sporting a cropped hairstyle and wearing a black fleece jacket, McMenemy remained expressionless as she was led out of the dock.

Dante Leccacorvi, defending, said: “In brief she commits these offences because she feels unsafe in the community. I am instructed to invite the court to pass the longest sentence possible.”

McMenemy, now of Church Lane, Hornsey, north London, admitted making a bomb hoax and persistently making use of public communications networks to cause annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety.