Ferry staff assaulted after refusing drunken passengers travel

Two drunk contractors who assaulted NorthLink staff and police after being refused travel have been hit with hefty fines.

Andrew Crawford and Paul McKenna, both aged 50, admitted the offences when their case was heard at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday.

Their defence agents claimed it was “totally out of character”.

The court heard the two men, who had been working in Shetland, had been due to fly back to the mainland on 30th March when their flight was cancelled.

With nowhere to go until catching the boat south that evening, they spent the afternoon drinking in town with other co-workers.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said McKenna, of Kilbowie Road, Clydebank, had been refused travel after “wandering around the ferry terminal, clearly drunk”.

He was making such a commotion, Mr MacKenzie said, that NorthLink staff decided to move some children into another waiting area to keep them out of his way.

Crawford, of Shaftesbury Street, Alloa, was told the news and reacted badly, the court heard.

As one of the staff members tried to deal with McKenna, he turned his back on Crawford who attacked him.

Mr MacKenzie said Crawford grabbed the staff member from behind, took hold of his head and pulled it down towards his knee. 

Another female staff member saw what was happening and tried to remove Crawford from her colleague.

The accused responded by punching her on the head, Mr MacKenzie said.

By now, the police had arrived. As one officer arrested Crawford, the other tried to deal with McKenna.

Mr MacKenzie said McKenna was “extremely difficult” and struck the officer on her arm as he tried to push her away.

The other officer saw what happened and went to her assistance, the court heard, but it took five minutes to get McKenna under control.

“All the while, he was shouting, swearing and making sexually explicit comments, and such like, to the police,” the fiscal added.

“This was happening outside the terminal building, the noise was such that it could be heard inside.

Mr MacKenzie said it caused a “significant degree of alarm” to those waiting to travel.

Defence agent Tommy Allan, representing Crawford, said his client usually only drank during special occasions, whereas those he had been with were “more experienced”.

“They all drank far too much and all of them were very drunk,” Mr Allan said.

He said his client recalled reacting badly to the refusal to travel, and accepts he became involved in the incident that followed.

After punching the second member of staff, Mr Allan said Crawford realised the incident had gone “way beyond” what he was accustomed to and co-operated fully with police.

Mr Allan said his client spent the night in the cells for the first time, which he described as a “sobering incident in more ways than one”.

The defence agent said the incident had a major effect on his client.

“He understands the effect on the complainer will be much greater and he appears to be genuinely sorry for that,” Mr Allan said. 

“He would very much like to apologise to both complainers, he understands they were just doing their job.

“Clearly there were other people involved who may have witnessed this and it can’t have made a good start to their journey south.”

Representing McKenna, defence agent John Boyle said his client had “no memory” of what went on in the ferry terminal that day.

While waiting for the ferry, he said McKenna had gone to at least two pubs.

“He is not someone for whom drinking is unknown, but he doesn’t consider himself to have a drink problem and he has never behaved this way before,” Mr Boyle said.

The defence agent said there was a “suggestion” someone might have spiked his client’s drink, given the nature of his behaviour, which was described as “erratic”.

McKenna was reportedly “mumbling away” to various people over the course of the incident.

Mr Boyle said his client was apologetic for his behaviour, which was “completely out of character”.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank fined Crawford £400 and ordered he pay a total of £350 compensation to the two people he assaulted.

He fined McKenna  £800 plus a £40 victim surcharge.


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