Prendeville avoids prosecution for lewd act

RADIO presenter Neil Prendeville is not to be prosecuted for committing a lewd act on an Aer Lingus flight, because of a jurisdictional technicality.

The Cork 96FM presenter exposed himself and masturbated in public view of two Aer Lingus air hostesses and a female passenger, Irish Examiner journalist Niamh Hennessy, as the aircraft taxied to the runway at Heathrow airport en route to Cork last October.

Ms Hennessy and the crew members subsequently made statements to gardaí, who sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions after completing their investigations.

While the DPP declined to give a reason for not prosecuting Mr Prendeville — who apologised for the incident of which he says he has no memory due to a combination of drink and painkillers — the female witnesses were told it was due to a jurisdictional technicality. For certain offences — such as jeopardising the safety of the aircraft, passengers, property and good order or discipline on board — jurisdiction is defined at the moment the door of the aircraft is closed. For others — such as causing offence to any person on board — jurisdiction is determined at the moment power is applied for take-off.

Aviation law expert Richard Martin said that as the incident occurred while the aircraft was taxiing to the runway, prior to commencing take-off, Mr Prendeville would have been subject to British, not Irish law, in relation to committing an act likely to cause offence.

Yesterday, Ms Hennessy, who was seated next to Mr Prendeville on the flight, spoke of her upset at the decision not to prosecute.

“I am horrified and dismayed that Mr Prendeville is not to be prosecuted for his appalling and totally unacceptable actions. This incident has caused me much hurt and I can only wonder what kind of message this gives out to people who may find themselves in a similar situation in the future.”

She said what Mr Prendeville did was wrong. “His actions were vile. There is something very wrong with the justice system if he will pay no price for what he has done. It begs the question should the gardaí now hand the file over to the British authorities,” she said. Ms Hennessy said she will be making no further comment on the matter.

Neither Mr Prendeville nor his solicitor Gerald Kean could be contacted for comment last night and it is unclear when or if the presenter will be back on air as 96FM chief executive Kieran McGeary said he had no comment to make.

Once details of the incident became public last November, Mr Prendeville made an apology on radio. He has been on leave from his Cork’s 96FM flagship daily morning show since then.

“I’m not going to be putting up any sort of defence. I hold my hand up and say: ‘If this is what happened, I take responsibility’,” he said at the time. He said he would not challenge any prosecution that might result from the Garda investigation.

He also left a message on Ms Hennessy’s voicemail after the incident in which he said: “I just wanted to apologise to you for any offence that I might have caused you.” He said he had no recollection of the incident and when he was told about it he was “shocked and horrified”.

“I have no recollection whatsoever. I’m in shock, you know, I really am. I took some Nurofen Plus alright, I know that, for my neck. And as you know, with me anyway there was pints and wine and stuff and Jesus I don’t know where I’d begin to make it up to you,” he said on the voicemail.

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