Paul Carberry has been jailed for two months today for setting fire to a newspaper on a plane from Spain to Dublin.
The 32-year-old rider pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace on the Aer Lingus flight on October 1 last year.
But at Swords District Court in Dublin, Judge Patrick Brady described Carberry’s evidence in the case as contrived.
He said he also had to consider the seriousness of the risk to passengers on a plane travelling at 12,000ft and the distress it had caused to them.
“I would be failing in my duty if I didn’t mark the offence,” he said.
Judge Brady sentenced Carberry to two months in jail and fined him €500.
Carberry has registered a string of high-profile successes since riding his first winner on the Flat at Leopardstown in 1990.
The jockey hit the headlines when he teamed up with his trainer father Tommy to claim the 1999 Grand National at Aintree with Bobbyjo.
Carberry was also crowned Irish champion jockey in 2002, where he became the first man since Charlie Swan in 1996-1997 to ride a century of winners.
He is now retained by trainer Noel Meade and the pair teamed up to good effect with Nicanor last season, taking both the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
Carberry was granted bail after paying €1,000 in cash and was allowed to walk free from court, pending an appeal against the conviction.
He jumped into a waiting car without making any comment.
Judge Brady, who heard evidence about the incident from 14 witnesses on Monday, said the state’s case was clear and had not been upset on cross-examination.
He noted that Carberry’s evidence to the court included three important variations on the original statement he had provided to Gardai in Dublin Airport last October, as well as “one contradiction of a point therein”.
“I conclude that his evidence was contrived,” he said.
Judge Brady said that while Carberry had claimed that setting the newspaper on fire was a “freak accident”, the usual definition of this term was an “unusual and unexpected event”.
“On the evidence, I reject this,” he said.
He added that the evidence clearly pointed towards recklessness by Carberry, who had accepted in cross examination that he was reckless.
Carberry, dressed in a black suit, blue shirt and checked tie, had been given permission to sit on a bench at the front of the court while Judge Brady delivered his verdict.
Judge Brady said the jockey’s defence team could not say that there was no danger or substantial risk from his actions in the plane, when he set the Irish Times newspaper of a fellow passenger on fire.
“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.