British air rage case: ‘Shut up or I will smack you’
‘Nightmare’ drunk jailed for six months after jet diverts to UK over abusive behaviour
Joshua Strickland (21), of York, threatened to assault a number of people during a Jet2.com flight from Leeds Bradford Airport to Cyprus on July 13th last. File photograph: ITV
A “nightmare” drunk has been jailed for six months after his abusive behaviour to flight crew and passengers led to a plane being diverted.
When the plane returned to the UK to land in Manchester, Strickland was heard to say: “If they are doing this I might as well knock someone out.”
The painter and decorator, who failed a “love rat” lie detector test on ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show last year, was first spoken to by Jet2 crew for talking loudly when the plane was still on the tarmac.
Following take-off shortly after 10.30am, Strickland put his face close up to an air stewardess and said: “I want a f***ing drink.”
‘I will knock you out’
Manchester Crown Court heard he turned his attentions to a Cypriot family sitting nearby and told them: “You had better not be talking about me or I will knock you out.”
He went on to say: “Speak English, talk English.”
Strickland, whose eyes were glazed and was slurring his words, told another passenger: “Shut up or I will smack you.”
Elizabeth Evans, prosecuting, said a seat was found at the back of the plane for Strickland and he was physically restrained in his seat, partly by his friends.
However, he broke free at one point after pretending to go to the toilet and ran down the aisle towards the Cypriot family.
Concerned crew members informed the flight captain of Strickland’s “volatile, abusive and unpredictable” behaviour and the decision was made to turn back over the North Sea and land at Manchester Airport.
The prosecutor said the defendant repeatedly tried to get out of his seat as the plane descended and friends attempted to cover his mouth.
Punching head rest
She said: “He was described as kicking out at and punching his head rest and was heard to say ‘if they are doing this I might as well knock someone out’.”
Strickland, of Lucas Avenue, was arrested when the plane landed and the flight was further delayed until a new crew arrived.
He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to being drunk on an aircraft.
Huw Edwards, defending, said his client was “remorseful”.
Mr Edwards said: “He has asked me to pass on his apologies to those who had to experience what was at least an extremely unpleasant, and at most a frightening, experience which resulted from his frankly awful behaviour.”
Strickland had 11 previous convictions for 20 offences, including a most recent offence of battery in 2014 in which he received a community order.
He was said to have had a “troubled upbringing” and has mental health problems together with a history of alcohol and substance misuse.
Mr Edwards said Strickland was finally willing to address his depression.
Sentencing, Judge Eliot Knopf said: “There is no question this must have been every passenger and crew’s nightmare.
“You were particularly unpleasant and aggressive because of your obsession with the Cypriot family, for whatever reason.
“It has been said on a number of occasions in recent years where people appear before court for sentences of this nature, they must expect condign punishment. Not just being punished for what they did but so that the message goes out they will receive a strict sentence.”
Strickland was banned for life by Jet2 last month.
The firm applied for £10,350 (€12,000) compensation from Strickland but the judge pointed out that the defendant was unemployed and on benefits.
His own alcohol
Jet2 said Strickland had consumed his own alcohol illicitly on the Larnaca-bound flight.
The company’s managing director, Phil Ward, said: “We are thrilled with the decision by Manchester Crown Court today. Joshua Strickland’s violent outburst was absolutely unacceptable and caused a lot of distress plus significant delays for our customers.
“Our customers, many of whom are families, should be able to look forward to an enjoyable flight experience with us and we will not let a disruptive few spoil this.
“We will take whatever action necessary to stamp it out. Passengers should be in no doubt that the consequences of abusive and unruly behaviour onboard aircraft do lead to custodial and financial penalties.”
Jet2 said its Onboard Together initiative commits the airline to a zero tolerance stance against disruptive passenger behaviour, including banning the sale of alcohol onboard all flights before 8am.
So far more than 500 passengers have been refused travel and more than 60 of those have been given lifetime bans, added the firm.