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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
REM star cleared of air rage attack
Mr Buck (right) was supported at the trial by singer Michael Stipe
Mr Buck (right) was supported at the trial by singer Michael Stipe
REM guitarist Peter Buck has been cleared of attacking British Airways staff in an alleged air rage incident.

The 45-year-old musician sighed audibly and wiped his brow as the jury, which had deliberated for five-and-a-half hours, returned its verdicts.

He had been accused of attacking two cabin staff and covering them in yoghurt, knocking over a trolley and trying to steal a knife.

The incident happened on a British Airways flight from Seattle to Heathrow in April last year.

'Automatism'

Mr Buck had denied one charge of being drunk aboard the plane, two charges of common assault involving an air stewardess and the cabin services director, and one of damaging British Airways property.


I look forward to be returning my attention to my family, my band and music

Peter Buck

He claimed the combination of taking a sleeping pill and drinking "small amounts" of wine had caused a reaction known as "non-insane automatism", and he had not intended to commit an offence.

The prosecution at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, said the rock star made up a story about a sleeping pill reaction to excuse his behaviour.

Outside court, Buck's solicitor Neill Blundell gave a statement on his behalf standing with the REM guitarist as well as lead singer Michael Stipe, bassist Mike Mills and Mr Buck's wife Stephanie.

'Relief'

The statement read: "I am grateful to the court, the jury and my lawyers to my family, friends and supporters who have stood by me throughout this experience.


Peter Buck
Peter Buck cleared:   The defence's case   "Non-insane automatism" explained   Peter Buck's career
"I am obviously relieved to be finished here and I look forward to be returning my attention to my family, my band and music'."

Buck declined to make any other comment, but when asked if he would be flying home with British Airways, he replied "yes".

After the trial a British Airways spokesman said: "We accept the court's decision.

"We will continue to treat allegations of assault on our staff and drunkenness on aircraft extremely seriously and support any prosecutions."

He added that Mr Buck would be welcome on any British Airways flights.

Legal claims

Bono of U2
Bono said he had never seen Mr Buck drunk
The Amicus union, which represents air stewards, announced that it would be pursuing legal claims for compensation on behalf of two cabin crew members involved in the case.

The action is likely to be against British Airways or the ground crew at Seattle airport.

The union said it was disappointed at the court verdict and called for zero tolerance of alleged air rage incidents.

General secretary Sir Ken Jackson said: "This incident has left cabin crew traumatised. Air rage is an increasing problem for our members."

Pilots' union Balpa said the jury decision had sent out "all the wrong signals".

Upending

Mr Buck had been flying to London to perform at the Nelson Mandela concert in Trafalgar Square.

He said he blacked out until he woke up in a police cell.

The court was told he did not remember allegedly upending a hostess trolley, swearing at the captain and ripping up a "yellow card" warning him to behave or face arrest.

During the trial the millionaire father-of-two was described by his wife, friends and fellow celebrities, including U2 singer Bono, as the "politest, gentlest" person imaginable.

Guitarist Peter Buck with other members of REM
REM are one of the world's most famous bands
REM singer Michael Stipe called Mr Buck the epitome of a "Southern gentleman" who would rather retire to his hotel to read after a gig than go to the bar to drink.

They one of the biggest bands in the world with hit albums including Automatic for the People.

The group released their latest album, Reveal, last year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Sillito
"Buck claimed he felt as though he was in Disneyland"
See also:

05 Apr 02 | UK
REM's 'southern gentleman'
05 Apr 02 | Music
Peter Buck's rich pageant
03 Apr 02 | UK
REM star 'lied to court'
25 Mar 02 | UK
Bono defends REM guitarist
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