Pilot sentenced for Farage threats

Sunday 23 October 2011 02:37

The pilot of a plane that crashed on election day, injuring Ukip leader Nigel Farage, was given a two-year community order today after a court heard his threats to kill the politician were "a cry for help".

Justin Adams, 46, of Faringdon, Oxfordshire, was flying a light aircraft that was towing an election banner on May 6 last year when it nose-dived to the ground.

Both men suffered "significant injuries" and were treated in hospital, Oxford Crown Court heard.

Adams, a self-employed commercial pilot, lost work in the six months it took for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigation into the crash to take place. He was unable to have his plane repaired, as insurers would not pay out until the investigation had been completed.

As well as being angry about the length of time the investigation took, Adams also felt resentment towards Mr Farage, judge Mr Justice Saunders said. The pilot believed he had lost out on an opportunity to sell his story, having been advised not to speak to the press.

He made threats to kill both CAA crash investigator Martin James and Mr Farage, saying he had a gun and could "shoot to kill", the judge told the court. Adams was found guilty of five counts of making threats to kill by a jury in April.

Mr Justice Saunders said Adams was suffering from "a depressive order of moderate severity" which had been triggered by the crash.

The judge told the court: "He was also drinking to excess, which undoubtedly impaired his judgment and affected his behaviour.

"I also accept, having heard the evidence in the trial, that to an extent these offences were a cry for help as well as an expression of anger and resentment at the events that had happened."

But he added: "There is nothing that could have justified these offences, and they were serious. Mr Adams made persistent threats over a three-day period that he was going to kill Martin James and Nigel Farage."

Adams has been in custody for six months before today's sentencing. As part of the community order, he will be supervised for two years.

The judge told him: "This has to be an end to all of these matters. Do you understand?".

Adams, dressed in a smart dark blue suit and striped tie, replied: "Yes."

Alistair Grainger, defending Adams, said his client was now "a broken man".

He told the court: "This is a man who hit rock bottom and who was unable to deal properly with the quite extraordinary challenges that were put in front of him, and resorted to behaviour that, while understandable, would not be the behaviour of most of us, or indeed any of us.

"It was exacerbated by alcohol, not necessarily caused by it."

During the trial earlier this year, the jury was played a recording of an exchange between Adams and Sharon Bailey, a police inquiry centre officer at Thames Valley Police.

He said: "I'm going to kill somebody or two", the court heard. In the conversation, on the evening of November 28 last year, Adams was heard to say: "I know where they live, they destroyed my life."

He later added: "I now have a 9mm pistol, I've got the means - I will take them out and then myself."

Adams told the operator he had lost his livelihood, house, wife and child in the wake of the CAA investigation.

He said: "You need to understand all charges were dropped against me after six or seven months of investigations. In the intervening period everything else fell apart."

He added: "He's taken my life, I'll take his."

The court heard today that armed police were involved in Adams' arrest. However, officers found no evidence that Adams ever had a gun as he had claimed.

The CAA investigation eventually concluded that Adams had not been to blame for the crash, the judge said.

Mr Farage did not attend court, but in a statement released after the sentencing, said he wanted to "draw a line" under the "tragic episode".

He said: "Today's sentencing marks the end of a sad and tragic episode.

"As I have stated previously, it has always been my belief that Mr Adams was in need of help and support from our mental health services, yet he never got the level of care that he needed.

"I now intend to draw a line under this whole affair and continue my work as an MEP for South East England and leader of Ukip as the party continues to grow."