Wednesday 21 August 2019

Irish lawyer jailed for racism and spitting in flight attendant's face

Simone Burns
Simone Burns

Helen William

An Irish 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 in the UK, 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 said such offences were often committed by people of impeccable character.

Although the aircraft was not at risk from 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 (50), who is known as Simone O Broin, 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 was initially served three bottles of red wine but declared, "I'm a f**king 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***s" and smoked a cigarette in the toilets during the tirade, condemned by one member of the cabin staff as unlike anything he had seen during his 30-year aviation career.

The lawyer, who is orginally from Belfast 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 was told.

Burns was also ordered to pay £300 (€350) 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 was told. She was served with three 25cl bottles of red wine an hour into the flight.

She had also complained 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 was told.

The court was told 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 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."

Mark Kimsey, defending, said his client was "totally ashamed of her behaviour".

Irish Independent

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