Belfast Telegraph

Air rage man who tried to attack cabin crew is jailed

BY PAUL HIGGINS

A drunken holiday-maker who behaved "outrageously" on the flight home has been jailed for five months.

After hearing how 20-year-old Michael Paul McGrath tried to "kick, punch, head-butt and bite" cabin crew and passengers in an air rage incident, District Judge Alan White said his behaviour was "so outrageous" he had to go into custody.

He told Antrim Magistrates Court: "In my view it does cross the custody threshold and I want to send out a message that this behaviour will not be tolerated."

McGrath, from Rectory Park in Lurgan, had earlier admitted 11 charges including endangering the safety of an aircraft, behaving in a disorderly manner on an aircraft, interfering with cabin crew, being drunk on a plane, failing to obey a lawful command and a further six counts of common assault on cabin crew and other passengers.

Prosecuting lawyer Dylan Cole told the court the charges, which all occurred on August 9, arose after McGrath had to be physically restrained on a flight from Turkey to Belfast International Airport.

The incident began when McGrath "pushed a member of staff in the back" and became "disruptive" and verbally abusive when told to sit down.

Instead, he refused and strutted "up and down the aisle of the aircraft, trying to take his clothes off," said the lawyer adding that he told the crew to "f*** off" and struggled while crew and passengers tried to restrain him.

During the scuffle, the lawyer recounted how McGrath lashed out at the Good Samaritan passengers and crew with his head, hands and feet.

Mr Cole described how "women and children clambered over the seats to the rear to get away from him," but that using a restraint kit, McGrath was eventually restrained. Despite that, McGrath still "continued to kick, punch, head butt and shout" until he lapsed into unconsciousness but for the remainder of the flight, both McGrath and his airway were monitored to make sure he was okay.

The flight's captain requested to be met by the police at Aldergrove and officers carried the unconsciousness McGrath off the plane and arrested him.

After he said he had taken his father's prescription painkillers, McGrath was taken to hospital to be examined but was discharged later that day.

During police interviews, he told police he had drunk a large amount of alcohol, had taken his father's tablets and could not remember what had happened.

Solicitor Connor Downey said both McGrath and his family were "wholly embarrassed" by the incident and told the court he had been instructed to issue a public apology to the cabin crew and other holiday makers.

He urged the judge to "leave something hanging over his head" but accepted that McGrath was "in a very precarious position".

Ordering McGrath to be detained for five months however, Judge White said he had behaved "in an absolutely outrageous manner".

"You assaulted the crew, assaulted other members of the public who were trying to help the cabin crew to restrain you, you put families in genuine fear that the aircraft was in danger by your behaviour," said the judge.

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