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Drunk passenger jailed after tirade of abuse on Virgin flight

The passenger had smoked in the toilets and even spat at a staff member.

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A drunken and disruptive passenger who repeatedly abused staff on a flight from Gatwick to St Lucia has been jailed.

36-year-old Uche Ezedinma had to be physically restrained and caused the Virgin Atlantic aircraft to be diverted due to his persistently poor behaviour.

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A statement from Sussex Police says,

“He was verbally and physically aggressive throughout, which included spitting at a member of staff, punching the overhead storage and threatening numerous other cabin crew.”

He also smoked a cigarette in the toilet, which is strictly prohibited by airlines.

Mr Ezedinma had been travelling in the company of his mother, a further 247 passengers and 10 crew members on the Airbus A330 to St Lucia on 28 January 2017.

But less than half way into the journey, it was diverted to the Azores in Portugal to offload Ezedinma, of Elgin Road, Croydon, Surrey, and continue its journey.

Sussex Police say this was due to safety concerns for the aircraft and those on board, and it was a decision not taken lightly by the captain – it was the first time in 20 years as a Virgin pilot he had to divert a flight due to passenger behaviour.

Ezedinma was removed from the plane by local officers, and the remaining passengers were required to disembark to enable the plane to refuel – this was as a result of the extra fuel consumed by the diversion, and caused a significant disruption.

Following this, the flight resumed without any further issues, and the incident was reported to Sussex Police.

A protracted enquiry process via Interpol was undertaken to determine what action the Portuguese authorities had taken, and it was confirmed the defendant was allowed on his way after just two hours of administrative paperwork.

Investigators at Gatwick Police conducted an investigation and gained sufficient evidence to present to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and Ezedinma was subsequently charged with being drunk in an aircraft and negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person therein.

“the sentence imposed sends a clear message to others that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

At Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday 26 June, he was sentenced to a total of 14 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge.

Detective Sergeant Patrick Sweeney, of Gatwick Investigations, said:

“The language, attitude and behaviour displayed by Ezedinma throughout the flight was completely unacceptable. No passenger or crew should have to experience such abject abuse on board an aircraft, and the sentence imposed sends a clear message to others that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.

“There are numerous signs on board every aircraft which indicate smoking is strictly prohibited, and Ezedinma blatantly ignored these signs, potentially causing a real danger to the aircraft and those on board.”

In May, Sussex Police launched its annual summer crackdown on disruptive passengers in partnership with Gatwick Airport.

The operation aims to prevent drunken and disruptive behaviour on flights and in the airport through early engagement with passengers.

Det Sgt Sweeney added:

“This case demonstrates that while we increase resources for our summer campaign, we will continue to detect and deter disruptive behaviour 365 days and year. It further demonstrates that we will deal robustly with anyone who fails to comply with the law, which is clearly outlined at various locations throughout Gatwick Airport.

“It is an offence to be drunk on board an aircraft, and passengers need to be aware of their own responsibilities before they board a flight. By all means have fun, but don’t ruin it for yourself or anyone else.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said:

“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority, and we will not tolerate disruptive or abusive behaviour on board any Virgin Atlantic aircraft.

“We continue to work closely with the relevant authorities and will always seek prosecution for those individuals that cause disruption to our services through unacceptable behaviour.”

Business

Former Horsham Council CEO appointed as Chair for GATCOM

New Chair brings substantial experience of chairing committees and similar bodies locally and across the South East.

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New Chair of GATCOM, Tom Crowley.

Tom Crowley – the former Chief Executive of Horsham District Council – has been appointed as the new Chair of Gatwick Airport’s Consultative Committee (GATCOM) – the statutory, independent advisory body and ‘critical friend’ of the airport, it was announced today.

Tom will take up his new role in January 2019 – for a minimum of period of four years – and brings with him substantial experience chairing committees and similar bodies locally and across the South East region. He is also currently Chair of Empty Homes – a national research and campaigning charity – and a Governor of the Chichester College Group.

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Before his appointment as Horsham’s Chief Executive in 2005, Tom held senior management roles at Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and Arun District Council.

In its 62 year history, the 28-strong committee has maintained an independent and unbiased approach in its overarching objective, which is to ensure the future success of Gatwick Airport, while paying particular regard to the impact it has on the surrounding communities and the environment.

The outgoing Chair – Dr John Godfrey – will leave his role in December 2018 after announcing his retirement after eleven years in post. His achievements during this period have been described by Stewart Wingate – Gatwick’s CEO – as ‘considerable’ and include leading the committee through the sale of the airport by BAA to Global Infrastructure Partners in 2009.

John also steered GATCOM through major challenges such as the public consultations on a second runway and the airport’s master plan, through the use of and changes to flight paths, the establishment of the Gatwick Noise Management Board and helped to generate support to secure enhanced rail services to the airport.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO, said:

“I congratulate and look forward to working closely with Tom in his new role as Chair. This post is fundamental to the strength of GATCOM and the committee plays a key role advising me and my senior team about issues of concern to our local communities or that impact the local environment.

“I would also like to express my personal gratitude to Dr John Godfrey for dedicating over a decade to the role. I very much value his contribution to GATCOM and his achievements during his tenure have been considerable and have helped shape the direction the airport.”

Dr John Godfrey, outgoing GATCOM Chair, said:

“I join Stewart in congratulating Tom on his appointment and wish him well in his new role. GATCOM acts as a bridge between the airport management and all the various agencies and interests which make up the wider community which the airport serves. Tom’s background and experience equip him to make a major contribution to the important work of the UK’s leading airport consultative committee.”

Tom Crowley, incoming GATCOM Chair, said:

“I am delighted to have been selected for this important position. Having lived and worked locally for almost forty years I am acutely aware of the economic benefits that Gatwick brings but I also appreciate that the airport’s development and operation generates significant environmental impacts.

“GATCOM plays a vital role in representing the interests of those who benefit from and are affected by the airport and it provides an effective forum to promote constructive dialogue with Gatwick’s senior managers.”

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