Drunken woman bit flight attendant

A Dunedin woman who bit an Air New Zealand flight attendant on the hand and kicked another in the testicles during a drunken rampage on an international flight last August has been ordered to have drug and alcohol counselling.

Tara Anne MacKay, also known as Tara Anne Laidler (28), now of Dunedin, appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday and admitted assaulting Susan Lawson-Hurst with intent to injure her on August 17 last year.

Two other charges arising from the same incident - a Crimes Act assault on a male and disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence - were withdrawn because of lack of jurisdiction.

Judge Dominic Flatley said the defendant's behaviour would have been ''extremely frightening'' for other passengers, as well as causing difficulties for flight crew who had other responsibilities. He said it was unclear why she behaved as she did, other than the fact she had drunk far too much alcohol.

On her return to New Zealand, MacKay admitted biting Ms Lawson-Hurst, although she could not recall kicking a male crew member.

She said she would have calmed down had cabin staff left her alone but she agreed she should not have drunk so much alcohol on the flight.

She was sentenced yesterday to 300 hours' community work and 12 months' supervision, with drug and alcohol counselling and therapeutic interventions and other counselling as directed.

MacKay and her partner had both been drinking on the Bali-bound flight and the defendant was intoxicated, the police facts summary said.

She began yelling and swearing loudly, repeatedly spilling her drink. Her behaviour made a nearby passenger feel so threatened she fled from her seat and reported the matter to cabin staff.

They asked MacKay to calm down and to come to the back of the plane to speak to them.

But she threw her drink at the female staff member and tried to push past the crew to return to her seat. She refused to comply with their instructions and a struggle developed, after which she locked herself in a toilet and refused to come out.

The captain authorised the crew to unlock the toilet door.

They physically removed the defendant but she resisted.

Cabin attendants restrained her and secured her in handcuffs and a leg restraint.

MacKay bit cabin crew member Ms Lawson-Hurst hard on the hand.

The victim tried unsuccessfully to break free from the bite by hitting the defendant on the back of the head.

But MacKay bit her twice more before she was able to free herself.

The defendant then kicked one of the male cabin crew forcibly in the testicles.

As a result of being bitten, Ms Lawson-Hurst had a swollen and bruised hand, with a suspected hairline fracture.

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