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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.”

Gatwick

Criminals beware, Project Servator has launched at Gatwick and it WILL spot you!

Unpredictable, that’s the key word for the project launched at Gatwick Airport for the first time, ensuring that security checks are performed without any notice.

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In this day and age we all feel a sense of safety whenever we see a police patrol going about their business.  None more so than at an airport.

“deter, detect and disrupt hostile reconnaissance”

Now Gatwick has gone one step further and adopted the national project Servator that has performed so well up and down the country.

Inspector James Biggs from the Gatwick Police Prevention Team explained:

“Project Servator is a project initiated by the city of London police that has now gone nationwide including railway stations and airports.

It’s designed to deter, detect and disrupt the hostile reconnaissance coming to the airport and places of interest.  That’s all levels of criminality from shoplifters to terrorists.

The project has been live nationwide for a number of a years which is why we adopted it here.”

But what is it?

The aim is be as unpredictable as possible and run security checks utilising all arms of the available resources available to the police, from uniformed to plain clothed and armed officers.  Additionally the use of dogs and the sophisticated CCTV and number plate recognition software all combine to create the airports very own ring of steel.

The officers have been specially trained to detect people who may come to the airport and act in a different manner.  Something not easy in an environment as busy as Gatwick where the people change every single hour and day.

But it is not just within the airport buildings that the project is undertaken.

Road checkpoints have also been set up ensuring that if anyone even thinks about getting close to the airport for wrong reasons then they will have no choice but to come face to face with the police.

Whilst the whole project is all about being unpredictable and therefore catching out would-be criminals, there is an additional side that could be witnessed first hand while watching the officers in action.

Smiles on the faces of passengers.

The very presence, the interaction and the belief that Gatwick is showing that safety is of paramount importance to all who both work and travel through the airport.

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