A drunken passenger who behaved “disgracefully” on board a Newcastle-bound return holiday flight from Spain was told to “cancel Christmas” to pay for a lawyer to represent him at court.

Defendant Paul Donnelly was told it would probably not prevent him from being jailed, but it may help to reduce the length of sentence he will have to serve.

Donnelly appeared for sentence at Durham Crown Court today (Thursday December 21) having previously admitted charges of entering an aircraft when drunk, or being drunk on an aircraft, and assault by beating of a fellow passenger.

He was arrested by police when a Ryanair flight from Alicante touched down at Newcastle International Airport on Monday July 17.

The Northern Echo:

Air traffic control at the airport had alerted police after receiving notification from the flight commander of a troublesome passenger on board the incoming plane.

The 52-year-old defendant, of Whalton Court, Wardley, Gateshead, was not represented when the case was called on in Court Two, as he said he was unable to afford to pay for a lawyer.

Recorder Gurdial Singh told the defendant he ought to be assisted by a solicitor or barrister, adding: “You are looking at a prison sentence.

“Behaving in the way you did on a plane, there’s only one outcome and in my view you ought to be represented.

“You are in a very serious position and I don’t want you to go away thinking you are not going to prison.”

Recorder Singh asked Donnelly if he was working to which he replied that he was self-employed and wanted to get back working.

“You ought to be represented and I’ll give you a chance to get representation.

“You are looking at both barrels of a custodial sentence.

“The way you behaved was, quite frankly, disgraceful.

“People being assaulted, you swearing and making threats.

“You were not in a bar, you were in a plane 30,000ft up and I can only imagine the fear that other people had.”

The Recorder said his position was “severely aggravated” by the fact he assaulted a fellow passenger.

“I remind myself, however, you have no convictions and it seems you should have the opportunity and I’ll give you a month or just over.

“Take it from me it may well only go to reducing the sentence.

“I suggest you cancel Christmas and get a lawyer.

“You are going to have to prioritise this above anything else.

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“But you are going to be sentenced on the next occasion, so I suggest you go today or tomorrow and get it sorted and then save towards the payment of that solicitor or barrister.

“If you leave it and bury your head in the sand you will take the consequences of it and pay the price.”

Recorder Singh bailed the defendant to return for the re-scheduled sentencing hearing at the court on February 2.

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