A lawyer who spat at a flight attendant during a racist foul-mouthed tirade after she was refused alcohol on a nine-hour business class flight has been jailed for six months.
Judge Nicholas Wood, sentencing at Isleworth Crown Court, told Simone Burns: “The experience of a drunk and irrational person in the confines of an aircraft is frightening, not least on a long-haul flight and poses a potential risk to safety.”
The judge noted that “such offences are often committed by people of impeccable character”.
Although the aircraft was not at risk by Burns’s behaviour, the judge said “for the luckless and unfortunate passengers and crew there is no escape at 30,000ft”.
He added that “spitting straight into a crew member’s face at close range is a particularly insulting and upsetting act”.
Burns, of First Avenue, Hove, sat quietly in the dock as she was sentenced to six months for being drunk on an aircraft and two months for assault.
The sentences are to be served concurrently after she previously pleaded guilty to the charges.
Burns, 50, who is known as Simone O’Broin, was initially served three bottles of red wine but declared “I’m a f****** international lawyer” when she was denied more on an Air India flight from Mumbai to London on November 11 2018.
She also called staff “Indian money-grabbing c****” and smoked a cigarette in the toilets during the tirade which was condemned by a member of the cabin staff as unlike anything he had seen during his 30-year aviation career.
The lawyer, who is Irish and has worked with refugees around the world, unleashed a barrage of abuse in a prolonged rant which also saw her spit and grab the arm of the steward, the court heard.
Burns was also ordered to pay £300 compensation to the crew member who was assaulted.
The nine-hour flight took off at 4.10am as Burns sat in business class with 17 other passengers.
After breakfast was served Burns was asking for alcohol and being “very obnoxious”, the court heard.
She was served with three 25cl bottles of red wine an hour into the flight. She had also complained that her TV was not positioned correctly.
She had gone to the galley and demanded drinks when she stood back and spat into the crew member’s face.
Burns also grabbed the report the crew member was writing and continued with her abusive behaviour, the court heard.
The court was told that this crew member later said: “In the 34 years I have worked for Air India this is the first time I have been treated like this by a woman. I felt abused.”
The judge said he was satisfied the offence was racially aggravated and that the Air India passengers must have been “extremely upset” by Burns’s behaviour and the language she used.
The judge told Burns: “The fact remains that you were drunk and obnoxious almost from the beginning to the end. You were abusive, contemptuous and confrontational and used appalling language.”
He added: “You are a woman, not just of good character but a positive and impeccable character - a righter of wrongs. What this has done, thanks to social media, (has meant) you have had death threats and been a hermit in your home.
“You are a person who has done good work throughout your life.”
Prosecutor Caroline Paul told the court that one of the crew members who dealt with Burns later described her as being “continually abusive in the nine-hour flight and in his 30 years as a flight pursor he had never witnessed such behaviour. “
The court heard that Burns was swearing and shouting. She was shouting that she was a ‘f****** international lawyer’ and telling them to ‘f*** off’.”
She also shouted: “You f****** arses, you f****** Indian money-grabbing c****.”
Burns also tried to smoke a cigarette in the toilets at least three times. She was successful at least once because she later stank of cigarettes, the court heard.
She was given a verbal warning and was then arrested after the flight touched down.
Burns was also given a written warning on the flight but it made no difference to her abusive behaviour, the court heard.
Mark Kimsey, defending, suggested that her actions were due to a “mixture of altitude, the consumption of drink and anxiety” at the fact that she was likely to miss the funeral of an uncle.
He said she is “totally ashamed of her behaviour”, adding: “This is not a lady who has a drink problem. This is not a woman who has a drug problem. This is totally out of character.”
Burns was diagnosed with facial skin cancer in 2000 and has had multiple biopsies and surgeries to what is “an active problem”, according to Mr Kimsey.
He added she is waiting to get a prosthetic nose.