Human rights lawyer jailed for racist taunts on plane threw herself from cliff

A human rights lawyer jailed for yelling racist taunts at Indian cabin crew who refused to serve her a fourth bottle of wine died after throwing herself from a cliff.

Simone Burns, 50, from Hove, was sentenced to six months in April for the racist rant against Air India staff during a flight from Mumbai last year.

She called the cabin crew “Indian money-grabbing c***s”, smoked a cigarette in the toilets and then spat in a cabin supervisor's face

The attack was filmed by “shocked” cabin crew on board the Heathrow-bound flight and she was arrested and later jailed.

But just two weeks after being released from Bronzefield women's prison Belfast-born Burns was found dead at the foot of a cliff in East Sussex on June 1.

At an inquest into her death today in Eastbourne her family said the highly-respected human rights lawyer had been suffering from severe mental health problems in the months running up to the air rage incident.

They said she had been suffering from paranoia and had displayed increasingly “erratic” behaviour and had fallen out with friends and family members.

The inquest heard the racist incident happened as the human rights barrister, who was called to the bar in 1992 and represented refugees around the world in her human rights work, returned from a trip to India.

On her arrival at Heathrow she was arrested and charged with the incident.

But a video – filmed by Air India cabin crew – posted online led to her experiencing serious abuse and online trolling.

Fearing a jail sentence would effectively end her legal career jailed for the offence she sought character references to present to the judge.

She also told her GP, Dr Bill Warrilow, she thought her drink had been spiked on the flight which had led to her behaviour.

But she was handed a six month sentence at Isleworth Crown Court in April.

The court was told Burns was initially served three bottles of wine but declared “I'm a f***ing international lawyer” when she was denied more on Air India flight AI131 on November 11, 2018.

Prosecutor Lauren Smith described the rest of the rant during Burns' trial at Isleworth Crown Court.

Miss Smith said: “She got up from her seat and began swearing and shouting.

She was shouting that she was a 'f** international lawyer' and telling them to 'f*** off’.”

She also shouted: “You f****** , you f**** Indian money-grabbing c****.”

A cabin supervisor, Dastur Pervin, tried to intervene but she was also told to ‘f*** off', shown the middle finger and assaulted, Miss Smith said.

She added: “Miss Burns was right in her face and she felt scared and when she refused to give Miss Burns more alcohol Miss Burns spat in her face.”

Burns also “grabbed her by her right upper arm and squeezed it” before going on to abuse other crew members and passengers.

The barrister, who was born in Belfast and also used the surname O'Broin, insisted her actions had been out of character.

After she was jailed the family requested a mental health assessment of the lawyer telling prison staff she was suffering serious problems.

However, despite the request the hearing was told no mental health assessment ever took place.

In a statement the family said: “In our view an opportunity to help her was missed.”

Miss Burns was released early on licence at the end of May but the hearing she became increasingly paranoid and delusional.

On June 1 she was seen by a member of the public sitting on a cliff near Eastbourne but when he was around 20 metres away she got up and ran towards edge and threw herself off.

Alan Craze, East Sussex coroner, recorded a conclusion of suicide into her death.

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