A west Belfast man whose “drunken, loutish behaviour” on a plane caused a Manchester bound flight to be emptied was fined £600 today (tues).
Imposing the fines on 47-year-old Samuel Patrick Moore at Antrim Magistates Court, District Judge Peter King lamented the fact that as the case was prosecuted under the Air Navigation act, all he could do was impose fines “which from my point of view is grossly inadequate sentencing powers.”
“I have to say from outset that if this sort of behaviour had taken place outside the confines of an aircraft, you would have been charged with public order offences which would have allowed me to compose sentences over and above a financial penalty,” said the judge.
Moore, from Springbank Close in Dunmurry, had pleaded guilty to behaving in a threatening manner in an aircraft, being drunk on an aircraft and failing to obey the lawful commander of an aircraft commander on 9 September last year.
A prosecuting lawyer outlined how police were called to Belfast International Airport in response to a disruptive passenger.
Cops boarded the EasyJet flight, “escorted him from the rear door” and spoke to the crew members who reported to police how Moore became aggressive when he had been asked to leave the flight, “shouting and swearing” with the crew “fearing that he would turn violent.”
A female crew member was “crying and in a distressed state” to such an extent that she as unable to continue with the flight which meant the entirety of the passengers had to disembark while a replacement crew was sought and caused a two hour delay.
During police questioning Moore claimed he had been taking the painkiller tramadol for his arthritis and as a nervous flier, had a beer and a double whiskey before he boarded the flight along with his mother and sister, claiming his “recollection was hazy.”
After he was charged and cautioned, Moore himself conceded he was “maybe” drunk on the plane and that “maybe I could have handled things somewhat different.”
Moore’s defence solicitor said while there had been initial reports that Moore “had threatened her with a gun,” that was entirely inaccurate, adding that at one stage in the incident which was recorded by a fellow passenger, he told the crew “I’m not going to lift my hand to you.”
“He was extremely embarrassed and ashamed of his behaviour on the plane and extremely apologetic to staff and passengers,” said the lawyer.
Judge King pointed out that had there been any suggestion if a weapon being involved, the case would have been referred to the Crown Court and told Moore “you should’ve have exercised a degree of self control.”
The judge continued: “This must’ve been an extremely distressing experience not just for the flight crew but for anybody else who was nervous about flying.
“Can you imagine how a nervous flyer would have felt seeing you withthat drunken loutish behaviour?”
Moore was allowed 26 weeks to pay his fine and a £15 offender levy.