Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Lauren fined for air rage tirade

Jennifer Lauren pleaded guilty to breaching the peace and being drunk on board a transatlantic Delta Air Lines flight

The niece of fashion designer Ralph Lauren pushed an air hostess and verbally abused crew during an air rage incident over the Atlantic Ocean, a court heard.

Jennifer Lauren was fined 2,000 euro after pleading guilty to breaching the peace and being drunk on board a transatlantic Delta Air Lines flight which had to be diverted to Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland on Monday afternoon.

More than 200 passengers and crew were on board the flight from Barcelona to JFK when the jewellery designer became loud-mouthed, abusive and threatening.

Ennis District Court in Co Clare was told the 41-year-old told an air hostess to "get the f*** out of my face" and called her a "f****** ugly, blonde bitch" before pushing her and turning on a senior colleague and pilot.

A solicitor claimed Lauren was upset and embarrassed by her actions which she said were out of character and caused by a reaction from mixing alcohol with her medication for depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

The air rage incident cost Delta 43,158 US dollars (31,770 euro).

Judge Patrick Durcan described the "very personal insults" directed at the two air hostesses and pilot "as nothing short of reprehensible".

"By virtue of the behaviour of this woman over 100 people had their schedules disrupted," he added.

"All of that in my view is serious in the extreme."

Lauren bit her lip and looked to the ground in the dock as Garda Inspector Tom Kennedy told the judge air crew were left frightened by the attack.

He said the flight had been in the air for two hours when an air hostess noticed the defendant crying in her seat, 21G, which would not recline properly.

He revealed Lauren told stewardess Constance Topping to "get the f*** out of my face" as she tried to help, and when told to calm down she became more abusive.

The court heard Ms Topping went to brief her supervisor Jennifer Simpson at the top of the plane and Lauren followed her through first class and in to the galley "at speed" where she ranted, roared and shouted incoherently.

"She told the air hostess she was going to go ballistic and pushed the air hostess hard and she hit her back against the wall of the aircraft," Mr Kennedy said.

He revealed her frightening experience continued with Lauren calling Ms Topping a "f****** ugly, blonde bitch" and Ms Simpson a "fat ugly, unhappy, blonde bitch".

A pilot on a rest break in the cabin also intervened and was told "you're an asshole" by the defendant, Mr Kennedy added.

The flight had to be diverted almost 400 miles back to Shannon Airport, with the abuse continuing for more than an hour until touchdown when Lauren was arrested by gardai.

Lauren, dressed in a black jumper, burgundy velvet skirt and boots, did not speak during the hearing and looked back to her friends for reassurance as the details were outlined to the packed courtroom.

On touchdown officers noted she was incoherent and smelt of alcohol, despite airline crew stating she drank little or no alcohol on board.

When arrested under caution at the airport she replied: "Can you say that in English please?". She later claimed she thought she had landed in Spain.

The air rage cost more than 17,000 US dollars (13,000 euro) in fuel charges, some 17,000 US dollars for passenger upheaval with 107 missing flights, and more than 7,000 (5,100 euro) in airport charges and fees.

In mitigation, defence solicitor Sharon Curley said her client suffers from depression, bi-polar and generalised anxiety and was on medication when separated from her friend on the flight.

She said Lauren has little memory of the incident despite only consuming three alcoholic drinks.

"My client is extremely embarrassed and extremely upset by her actions," Ms Curley said, offering her apologies to the airline crew, passengers and gardai.

She said when the "stimulants" wore off and Lauren "returned to herself" she was unable to believe what happened.

Ms Curley revealed Lauren - a fine arts graduate with an unblemished record and no other convictions - has previously suffered from anorexia and written a book on her experience and won awards from eating disorder charities for her work.

"She is going to have to live with the consequences of what happened for a long time," she said, adding that Lauren is aware she may have to face later action for compensation.

The solicitor handed references to the court, including from Lauren's father Jerry, which all described the incident as being isolated and totally out of character for the loving, hard-working, articulate single woman.

The defendant admitted being intoxicated to such an extent as would give rise to a reasonable apprehension that she might endanger herself or other persons on board the aircraft and to breaching the peace by engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour.

The charges, brought under the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1973, carried a maximum penalty of 6,000 euro fines and/or three months in prison.

A third charge was withdrawn by the prosecution.

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