Abusing Air India staff in flight lands top UK lawyer in jail

The sentence was pronounced after a five-minute video of Simone Burns abusing, shouting and spitting at the flight crew in an inebriated state was shown in court, where she sat quietly with a plaster across her nose during the proceedings.
By Prasun Sonwalkar | Hindustan Times, London
UPDATED ON APR 27, 2020 07:53 PM IST

A senior UK-based international human rights lawyer, who repeatedly hurled expletives and spat at staff on board a Mumbai-London Air India flight in November 2018 after being refused more wine, was on Thursday sentenced to six months in prison.

The sentence was pronounced after a five-minute video of Simone Burns abusing, shouting and spitting at the flight crew in an inebriated state was shown in court, where she sat quietly with a plaster across her nose during the proceedings.

“The experience of a drunk and irrational person in the confines of an aircraft is frightening, not least on a long-haul flight and poses a potential risk to safety,” Judge Nicholas Wood said while sentencing Burns, 50, in the Isleworth Crown Court.

Judge Wood noted that “such offences are often committed by people of impeccable character”, adding that “spitting straight into a crew member’s face at close range is a particularly insulting and upsetting act”.

Burns was sentenced to six months for being drunk on an aircraft and two months for assault. The sentences are to be served concurrently after she previously pleaded guilty to the charges. Her abuse was directed at Air India and Indians.

Mark Kimsey, representing Burns, sought a suspended sentence, telling the court of her many positive deeds as a human rights lawyer in various countries.

“She is deeply ashamed of her behaviour; extremely apologetic and does not give any excuses for her behaviour,” Kimsey said.

He said since the video of her behaviour went viral across the social media, her reputation has been destroyed and faced a torrent of threats and abuse, confining her to her home and refraining from practising in courts.

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