LONDON - A British teen-ager who phoned the White House and claimed as part of a drunken prank that there was a bomb in the center of New York, escaped jail on Monday.

Thomas Hutchinson, 19, from Sheffield, northern England, made a giggling call to the White House switchboard after drinking with friends at a barbecue last May, and claimed there was a bomb in Madison Square Garden.

The operator pressed a malicious call trace button and it was found to have been made in Britain.

Prosecutor Stephen Acaster said there was great concern when the call was first received but it was soon realized it was a hoax and Madison Square Garden was not evacuated.

Hutchinson was tracked down following an investigation involving the American secret service, the FBI, the New York City Police department and British counter-terrorism police.

He initially denied the charge when he was interviewed by police but later pleaded guilty, the Press Association reported.

At Sheffield Magistrates Court Monday, he was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.

One minute's thoughtlessness by you, one moment of madness, one drunken prank, all had very serious consequences, Judge Tony Browne said.

The reaction to a bomb hoax involving central New York is understandably taken initially very seriously.

Hutchinson's lawyer Geoff Flemming said it was unlikely Hutchinson would be a welcome visitor to the United States in the future.

What happened is evidently a young man of good character, who was at the time 17, in the company of his friends, has far too much to drink and does something which is breathtakingly silly, he said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)