Grand National jockey is jailed over fire on airliner

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The Independent Online

A Grand National-winning jockey has been sentenced to two months in jail for setting fire to a newspaper on a flight from Spain to Dublin. Paul Carberry, who won the 1999 National on Bobbyjo, looked shocked by the verdict and immediately lodged an appeal.

Carberry, 32, had pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace. But Judge Patrick Brady, at Swords District Court in Dublin, described his defence as "contrived".

Since his success on Bobbyjo, Carberry has confirmed himself as one of the brightest talents in a golden generation of jump jockeys. He is known as a fearless and flamboyant rider, but also has a reputation for lively behaviour out of the saddle. He insisted that the incident on an Aer Lingus flight last October had been accidental.

Carberry was returning from a holiday with 14 friends when he set fire to a newspaper owned by one of them, Paul Condon, who was seated beside him. It was extinguished within a few seconds. In court, Carberry conceded that he had been reckless, in fiddling with a cigarette lighter, but claimed that he had not intended to start a fire. Carl Hanahoe, representing Carberry, said the jockey had expressed his remorse and drew attention to his work for charity.

But Judge Brady said the defence could not deny that his actions were dangerous. "Would the defendant, an experienced jockey, have acted similarly in a stable or a transporter containing straw and hay? I would suggest emphatically not," he said. He noted that Carberry's evidence included three significant variations on the original statement he had provided to airport police. "I conclude that his evidence was contrived," he said.

He also had to consider the risk to passengers on a plane travelling at 12,000ft, and their distress. "I would be failing in my duty if I didn't mark the offence," he said.

Carberry walked out of court after being granted bail for €1,000, pending an appeal against the conviction. He got into a waiting car without comment.