Cullybackey Orange woman Heather McCarroll was jailed after destroying the Jet2 toilet and punching cabin crew

DJ Broderick told Heather McCarroll: “I have to say this is possibly the worst behavior I have ever encountered.”

Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, heard that had it not been for language difficulties, Heather Anne McCarroll would have been tried in a Turkish court after the captain declared a state of emergency to “land as quickly as possible”.

District Judge Nigel Broderick jailed the 38-year-old mother-of-two but released her on bail pending an appeal against the prison sentence. He told her he was seeking to impose a deterrent sentence because “there are too many of these incidents.”

DJ Broderick stressed that he has dealt with numerous similar cases as Belfast International Airport falls under his court’s jurisdiction, telling McCarroll: “I have to say this is possibly the worst behavior I have ever encountered.”

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for passengers to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and then become disruptive on a flight, but this behavior takes the whole thing to a whole new level,” the judge explained.

Heather McCarroll leaves court after an earlier hearing

At an earlier hearing, McCarroll, of Kilmakevit Square, Cullybackey, pleaded guilty to four charges of common assault and individual offenses: criminal damage to a Jet2 toilet, drunkenness on an aircraft, endangering the safety of an aircraft and behaving in a threatening, abusive or disorderly manner on an aircraft to the cabin crew on September 6th last year.

Today a prosecutor’s lawyer explained how police were contacted by Jet2 employees four days after the incident on a flight to Antalya, Turkey.

The crew told police how the passenger, who was sitting at 32D and identified as McCarroll, began verbally abusing the cabin crew and calling the cabin manager a “big lesbian slut” so she was not served any further alcohol.

Still, McCarroll was seen drinking more alcohol and she again swore at the cabin manager, calling her a “fucking slut and whore,” the lawyer said, adding that she was also “openly using an e-cigarette.”

At one point, McCarroll went to the bathroom and while in the stall, she was heard “shouting sexual obscenities and kicking the door.”

She left the lavatory in such a state that when she emerged it was “deemed necessary to close it for the remainder of the flight.”

Meanwhile, McCarroll went to the front of the plane, where she grabbed the intercom and “yelled” it so loudly that the captain had to turn it off so he could hear incoming transmissions from air traffic control.

The lawyer described how McCarroll “punched a crew member in the throat” and then went to the galley area at the back of the plane, where she attacked two other cabin crew members, kicking one in the forehead, stomach and leg and hit the other in the leg.

“The cabin crew alerted the captain and the flight deck and he declared an emergency to try to land the aircraft as quickly as possible,” the court heard, and the lawyer revealed that his desperate staff “made a call for help to all police officers outside “Official” to detain the accused.

Two off-duty officers stepped forward and restrained McCarroll in the back row of seats, which had to be evacuated because of her, but “she continued to fight” and she attacked a good Samaritan who volunteered to help restrain her.

Heather McCarroll

“Upon arrival in Turkey, the staff tried to contact the Turkish police about the matter, but there were reportedly language difficulties between the crew and the Turkish authorities, so they refused to deal with the matter,” the lawyer said the court.

McCArroll was interviewed by the PSNI where she admitted to being drunk but claimed she had little memory of the incident due to the alcohol and two diazepams she had taken as she was “a nervous flyer”.

“She expressed some regret for what little she could remember,” the prosecutor said, concluding that McCarroll also assaulted other people, “but they made no statements.”

Early in his impassioned plea for a less severe sentence, defense attorney Aaron Thompson acknowledged that “this is an extraordinarily serious matter,” so much so that the judge “and the public interest may well lead to a deterrent sentence.”

Mr Thompson further revealed that McCarroll has “already been punished” to some extent as she is currently suspended from her job as a social worker and is “at risk of losing that employment”.

He stressed that McCarroll’s case had received widespread media and social media attention and said she was “completely and utterly ashamed of it and embarrassed by her behavior.”

“Her behavior on that plane was appalling, despicable and intolerable, and she doesn’t hide from that,” Mr. Thompson said, but pleaded with the judge not to send her to prison given the circumstances of what happened at the airport.

DJ Broderick praised the defense for the “eloquent and measured plea” and, while accepting the background and personal mitigations, said: “My view is clear that alcohol was a significant factor and that can never be a defence.”

“I have read the detailed reports and thought carefully about everything that was said,” the judge told McCarroll. “There are too many of these incidents, largely triggered by alcohol but sometimes also by drug abuse, but that is no comfort to the cabin crew who interact with people or the passengers who have to endure this behavior.”

On her Facebook profile, McCarroll, who promotes perfumes and beauty products on social media, describes herself as a “travel-obsessed sunbather.”

According to her report, she is also a proud Orangewoman, even growing orange lilies on her doorstep for this year’s twelfth edition and posing for a photo wearing a bandmaster’s hat.

In addition to the four month prison sentence, McCaroll was also fined £300.

However, as McCarroll was taken to the cells, Mr Thompson requested that she be released on bail pending an appeal and the judge allowed her to go “directly” to the bail office and sign the bond.

Her appeal is expected to be heard early next month.


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