x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bomb hoax Briton jailed for three years

Hoaxer posed a 'serious threat' and subjected passengers to 'gross' inconvenience, according to the judge.

A Briton whose bomb hoax forced an Etihad Airways flight to be diverted under jet fighter escort was given a three-year sentence by a UK court.

James Glen, 38, a passenger aboard a flight from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow, London, in January, admitted to "communicating information about a bomb hoax" when he told a flight attendant that a passenger had a gun and had threatened to blow himself up.

According to a judge at Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex, Glen posed a "serious threat" and subjected passengers to "gross" inconvenience, the Press Association news agency reported.

Glen made the threat aboard a Etihad Airbus 320-600 on January 24 - the same day as a suicide bomber killed 35 people at the arrivals terminal of Moscow's busiest airport.

Two RAF fighters were scrambled by air-traffic controllers after the pilot sent out an alert and the airliner, with 163 passengers and 15 crew, was diverted to Stansted Airport in Essex, the designated emergency airport for hijackings or terrorist situations.

Glen, from Ayr in Scotland, had been living in Australia for 18 years and was flying for the first time since emigrating. His lawyer, Duncan Penny, said Glen had expressed a fear of flying and was tired. He had also "consumed alcohol" and taken an antihistamine drug, according to Mr Penny.

At an earlier hearing before magistrates, Vivienne Perry, prosecuting, had described Glen as "intoxicated" as he told a flight attendant that a fellow passenger, unknown to him, had a gun and had "threatened to blow himself up unless he was given £20,000 (Dh120,000)".

Ms Perry said that the flight had been diverted at "considerable financial cost", including charges incurred from the military escort, additional fuel and the cost to other passengers who missed connecting flights from Heathrow. "The whole incident caused considerable problems for passengers and members of the aircrew," she added, although only the crew and the passenger accused of being a bomber were aware of the reasons for the diversion.

After the captain was told of the threat, two RAF jet fighters were scrambled and escorted the aircraft to Stansted Airport, where it landed safely.

Charles Gratwicke, the judge overseeing the case, said any air traveller guilty of such behaviour could expect a prison sentence.

Responding to the verdict, an Etihad spokesman said: "The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our number one priority. Etihad will always support and assist law enforcement officials to bring those who compromise the safety and security of our flights to justice."

mdetrie@thenational.ae