A judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of a Londonderry woman who coughed over cabin crew and airplane passengers in an air rage incident after she failed to appear at court.
Sarah McGuire was due to appear at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, to be sentenced - but her solicitor Don Mahoney said despite writing to her and calling her “numerous times,” he had been unable to contact the 39-year-old.
He also conceded to District Judge Nigel Broderick that although he deferred passing sentence six months ago on condition that she engages with probation for a report and does not reoffend, she had not fully engaged with them.
Mr Mahoney revealed that of the two appointments offered to her, McGuire was late for one and turned up “under the influence of alcohol” for the second one.
Judge Broderick enquired whether she had reoffended since April and what her childcare position is and although the PPS lawyer confirmed that McGuire had remained offended free, Mr Mahoney said he was not sure whether she was the primary carer for her children.
“There’s a complex background,” said the solicitor, “we had hoped to get more details in relation to that had she co-operated with us let alone probation.”
On the day her trial was due to begin last March, McGuire, from Tyrconnell Street in Derry, entered guilty pleas to charges of common assault, behaving in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner towards a member of aircraft crew and refusing to obey the lawful command of an aircraft commander.
At an earlier hearing, she had admitted using disorderly behaviour at Belfast International Airport arising from the same incident.
The court heard that on 18 October last year, McGuire was on an easyJet flight to Edinburgh to visit her two children who live with their aunt when she “lost her cool” over the wearing of a face mask.
A prosecuting lawyer outlined how police were called to Belfast International Airport by ground staff after McGuire had been ejected from the flight, coughing over one of them.
That victim, said the lawyer, “lives with his elderly grandmother and the incident caused him great concern in the aftermath that he may have contracted Covid and that he might have taken it back to the family home”.
Further enquiries “established that the defendant had been verbally abusive to the easyJet crew and other passengers on board,” said the lawyer, adding that McGuire told them to “f*** off” and that on her way off the plane, McGuire “coughed over passengers on board shouting ‘everybody dies’ as she left”.
Arrested inside the terminal building, McGuire “became violent, struggling with police” and even when she was put to the floor and handcuffed, she “continued to shout and swear at police”.
During police interviews, McGuire refused to answer most of their questions but did tell officers that while she was had a face mask, “she had anxiety and that affected her wearing a mask on board”.
Lodging a plea in mitigation at that stage, defence counsel Sean Doherty submitted that McGuire, whose young son was tragically killed in a road traffic collision, felt a “high level of remorse and feels ashamed and embarrassed” about her behaviour but that “this behaviour does have a context”.
In court on Tuesday, Judge Broderick said he had adjourned the case from last week to allow McGuire a chance to turn up at court, “so I will issue a warrant for her arrest”.