AN Irishman took four times the recommended dosage of sleeping pills before he assaulted cabin crew and tried to storm the cockpit of a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney last year, a court in Australia has heard.
Leroy Hyland, 26, took two tablets of the over-the-counter sleeping pill Unisom while travelling on Delta Airways flight DL41 last October.
However, he swallowed two more when he felt no effect – well over the recommended dosage of just one pill per day.
Hyland, who lives in Randwick in Sydney's eastern suburbs on a temporary working visa, got up during the flight with a blanket over his head as he claimed to flight attendants that his wallet, passport and phone had been stolen.
Sydney's Downing Centre Local & District Court heard on Tuesday that the Irish passenger – who was carrying an "unidentifiable black object" – then shoved a member of cabin crew over before attempting to break into the pilot's cabin.
"At this time, using both of his hands, the defendant gave [a flight attendant] a hard shove to his shoulder causing the flight attendant to fall backwards onto [the second cabin crew member]," a statement of facts said.
"The defendant ran towards the cockpit door and began beating on the door with his fists."
Two other flight attendants then attempted to restrain Hyland, but he broke free and resumed banging on the door loud enough for the captain to hear the commotion behind him.
After the crew managed to subdue Hyland and bring him back to the aisle, they put a service cart on either side of the forward galley to block his access to the cockpit door.
A US federal air marshal who was on board then tried to escort the Irish national to the mid galley of the jet, but he jumped over seat 6B – stepping on a passenger seated in 6C in the process.
Hyland then jumped back over row six when he was confronted by a second air marshal.
"As the air marshals led the defendant towards the mid gallery of the aircraft he yelled obscenities and threw his identification card at a passenger seated in 11C," the statement of facts added.
"In the mid galley of the aircraft the air marshals attempted to calm him down, at which time he charged towards them."
Hyland made a final attempt to escape the air marshals – elbowing one in the right arm – but he was eventually restrained for good and spent the rest of the flight handcuffed between the two US federal agents.
Defence lawyer David Newham said his client was deeply ashamed of his "out of character" behaviour between 10.26pm on October 9 and 6.50am on October 10, 2018.
Hyland pleaded guilty to assaulting/threatening/intimidating aircraft crew, committing an act of violence on board an aircraft and behaving in an offensive and disorderly manner on an aircraft.
He had been facing a potential AU$10,000 penalty and two years in prison.
But Magistrate Julie Huber instead fined the Irishman AU$4,000 (€2,550/£2,200) and ordered him to complete 550 hours of community service.
"You took it upon yourself to take four times the recommended dosage simply because you wanted to sleep," the judge said.
"In many respects it is no different from having that extra glass of scotch or alcohol".
The judge noted that Hyland had shown genuine remorse for his behaviour and co-operated with the air marshals once he was handcuffed.
She added: "These offences were all committed whilst you were on a plane in mid-air.
"It's a very confined area, it's one which is occupied my many, many strangers and in many respects good management of the plane including the safety of the plane relies on the behaviour of those occupants.'
"It would appear that this is an unusual event and that as far as personal deterrence is concerned the requirement is relatively low."
Speaking on behalf of his client at court, Mr Newham said: "There's definitely been a lot of soul-searching for Mr Hyland after this very, very regrettable event that occurred last year."