Wednesday 19 September 2018

Drunk airplane passenger 'gave Nazi salute and grabbed pilot by the throat'

Charges: Burgoyne
Charges: Burgoyne

Paul Higgins

An airplane passenger who was high on drink and drugs when he gave a Nazi salute and tried to grab an easyJet captain by the throat has been jailed for three months.

Sentencing 51-year-old Paul Anthony Burgoyne at Antrim Magistrates Court, District Judge Nigel Broderick said incidents of passengers under the influence of drink or drugs and being abusive to air crews were "becoming all too prevalent".

He added that despite an "eloquent" plea in mitigation, "I feel that this case does merit a custodial sentence".

Judge Broderick also fined Burgoyne £500 and ordered him to pay £600 to the plane's captain, whose watch was broken in the incident.

The judge added that the sentence "should serve as a warning to anyone else who engages in similar behaviour".

Burgoyne was later bailed pending an appeal.

At an earlier hearing Burgoyne, originally from Northern Ireland but now living at Temple Close, Shepshed, Loughborough, pleaded guilty to nine offences arising from the incident on February 11.

They included four counts of common assault, including assaulting the captain of the flight; and damaging the captain's watch.

He was also accused of using disorderly behaviour at Belfast International Airport; behaving in an abusive, insulting or threatening manner towards cabin crew; and recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Outlining what happened during the incident, a prosecuting lawyer told the court Burgoyne was on an easyJet flight from Belfast to Birmingham when he was asked to raise the window blind for take-off.

However, the lawyer said he then became aggressive and "made a Nazi salute saying 'all right, mein Fuhrer'", adding that the captain came down and deemed Burgoyne as "unfit to be on board".

Burgoyne continued to be aggressive, shouting and swearing at the captain and crew, who felt he was "going to punch" them.

"He tried to grab the captain by the throat but got him by the collar instead and broke his watch, which was worth £600," the lawyer told the court.

Once ejected from the aircraft Burgoyne kicked the tug vehicle which was still attached to the plane and managed to get inside it, grabbing the steering wheel and a joystick.

When removed from the vehicle, Burgoyne "squared up to another member of staff", still shouting and swearing before he was arrested by police.

Defence counsel Neil Moore said it was clear from the reports that "alcohol, other illicit substances and fractious and toxic family relationships" led to the incident, which he described as "an explosion of anger".

He conceded that "obviously, his behaviour on the plane is disgraceful". However he argued that unlike many other cases where planes, crew and passengers were endangered mid-air, such as passengers trying to open doors, "this happened on the tarmac".

Mr Moore said Burgoyne "is a decent member of society who holds down a decent job", having left Northern Ireland "to build a new life".

He said that he had expressed remorse and regret for what happened.

"While there has to be an element of deterrence, when you look at the case law, this case is distinct and exceptional, fortunately for Mr Burgoyne, because it happened on the tarmac and not in the air," submitted Mr Moore.

Jailing Burgoyne, Judge Broderick agreed that "there must be an element of deterrence".

The judge added that despite Mr Moore's eloquent plea, his view was that the offences called for an immediate jail sentence.

While Burgoyne was initially taken to the cells, he was freed on bail pending an appeal of the sentence.

Belfast Telegraph

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