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2000: Air rage pair jailed

Two men have been jailed for causing a "bar room brawl" on board a holiday jet bound for Jamaica.

Patrick Connors was sentenced to a year in prison and Francis Coyle has been sentenced to three months for offences relating to the incident in January 1999.

The men were part of a group of 12 travelling on an Airtours flight to Montego Bay but the plane had to be diverted to the US after a fight erupted.

During the trial, the jury heard how the group were "boisterous" and continued ordering drinks, including vodka and champagne, until cabin staff refused to serve anymore.

Jurors were told that the group became increasingly rowdy and that Connors clashed with a Jamaican passenger.

The man, who was not questioned by police, told Connors to "shut those women up" and threw two drinks over him.

"He's known as the "gentle giant""

Francis Coyle's sister

The court heard how Connors and Coyle then tried to fight the Jamaican and had to be restrained by cabin crew.

The altercation caused some of the 300 passengers to cry and scream at the group to sit down, jurors were told.

Sentencing the men on Friday, Judge Austin Issard-Davies told the pair: "It is bad enough to have to contend with loud, boorish or drunken behaviour in streets, bars or railway trains.

"In the cramped confines of a crowded aircraft it is infinitely worse." Six months of Connors' sentence and six weeks of Coyle's sentence were suspended.

Three women - Elizabeth O'Driscoll, Angela O'Driscoll and Josephine Cooper - were earlier acquitted of charges of being drunk on board the same flight.

Relatives of the men were adamant they had done nothing wrong.

Speaking after the verdicts, Francis Coyle's sister said he was not a violent man.

"He's known as the 'gentle giant'. He wouldn't harm anybody, let alone petrify anybody," she said.

In Context
The case was the latest in a series of so-called "air rage" incidents.

By the time Connors and Coyle were imprisoned several people had already been jailed by British courts for offences on aircraft.

In 1998 British Airways reported a 400% rise in air rage incidents globally over the previous three years.

In response the government passed additional legislation to strengthen laws already in place to deal with disruptive passengers.

The new measures were designed to target offences such as smoking, drunkenness and anti-social behaviour and carried penalties of up to two years in prison or a 2,000 fine.

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