Jail avoided after plane rampage

Last updated 18:18 30/01/2014

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A woman who had to be restrained on an international flight after a drunken rampage has avoided jail for biting one flight attendant and kicking another forcibly in the testicles. 

Tara Anne MacKay, 28, was sentenced in Dunedin District Court this week to 300 hours community service, 12 months supervision and directed to complete drug and alcohol counselling.

The sentence has been criticised by the Flight Attendants and Related Services Association, whose general secretary Peter Bentley said a prison term would have been a deterrent to others.

MacKay admitted assaulting Susan Lawson-Hurst with intent to injure her while intoxicated on board an Air New Zealand flight to Bali on August 17 last year, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Two other charges - assault on a male and disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence - were withdrawn.

MacKay and her partner had both been drinking on the flight, and she was intoxicated, the police summary of facts said. 

She began yelling and swearing loudly, alarming a nearby passenger so much she fled from her seat and alerted the cabin crew. 

The crew asked MacKay to calm down, and to go with them to the back of the plane to talk. 

She  threw her drink at a female staff member, refused to comply with the crew’s instructions and locked herself in a toilet and refused to come out. 

The crew physically removed MacKay from the toilet after the captain authorised them to unlock the door. 

She resisted, and crew members restrained her in handcuffs and a leg restraint. 

MacKay bit Lawson-Hurst hard on the hand, and despite efforts from the victim to break free, she was bitten twice more.

MacKay then kicked a male crew member forcibly in the testicles. 

Lawson-Hurst suffered a swollen and bruised hand with a suspected hairline fracture. 

Judge Dominic Flatley said it was unclear why MacKay behaved as she did on the flight, other than that she had drunk far too much alcohol. 

The defendant’s behaviour would have been "extremely frightening" for other passengers, and caused difficulties for the flight crew who had other responsibilities, he said.

MacKay admitted she had too much to drink on the flight, but said she would have calmed down if the cabin crew had left her alone. 

Bentley told the ODT: "There needs to be a message sent to remind people that the constraints of being up there [in the air] puts all of those passengers' safety in jeopardy."

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- Fairfax Media

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