Women who forced plane bound for Cuba to turn back gets Conditional discharge
TORONTO -- Two women whose "obnoxious and unruly behaviour" forced a Cuba-bound Sunwing flight to return to Toronto under a military escort have been given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay a fine.
Ontario Justice Patrice Band issued a sentencing decision in the case of Lilia Ratmanski and Milana Muzikante on Tuesday, finding that a conditional discharge would be "fit and proportionate" for both women.
He also ordered both women to pay a fine of $500 each and to pay $7,500 in restitution to Sunwing.
The pair had pleaded guilty to mischief to property and smoking on board an aircraft in relation to their time on board a Sunwing flight that left Toronto on Aug. 27, 2014.
Band's written sentencing decision said that while on the flight, Ratmanski and Muzikante secretly consumed Duty Free alcohol they had bought on the ground, became "intoxicated and belligerent," and disturbed both passengers and crew.
Band said the pair also smoked a cigarette in the washroom of the plane and discarded the butt in a waste-paper dispense, causing the smoke alarm to sound.
Band said a male passenger later overheard Ratmanski utter a bomb threat, to which Muzikante "responded affirmatively."
The male passenger relayed what he heard to the crew, which passed along the information to the captain, the decision said.
"While the captain did not think the threat credible, he decided to turn the aircraft around," Band wrote. "He knew that other passengers were concerned and was worried that Ms. Ratmanski and Ms. Muzikante's behaviour might escalate."
When the plane re-entered Canadian airspace, it was joined by two Canadian Forces fighter jets, which escorted it to Toronto's international airport, Band wrote.
The plane landed safely, no one was injured and no property was damaged, but several passengers were "traumatized" and refused the opportunity to resume their trip several hours late, Band wrote.
Sunwing also claimed it suffered $42,500 in financial losses as a result of the incident, Band wrote.
"The defendants' obnoxious and unruly behaviour bothered passengers and crew. Their mention of a bomb likely became known to some of the passengers. Everyone's travel plans were placed in jeopardy for a number of hours," Band wrote.
"The offences in this case are serious. The defendants' behaviour was not a mere annoyance or inconvenience. It increased the danger faced by the passengers and crew to some extent. It also caused the airline to suffer substantial losses."
Ratmanski has been studying to become a nurse and works at an appliance repair company, Band noted. She has attended substance abuse meetings and does not appear to have an ongoing alcohol addiction, Band wrote.
Band also noted that Ratmanski's mother died in Ukraine while her case was underway but Ratmanski wasn't able to travel to the country due to her bail conditions.
Muzikante has been working as a service representative and has also been studying to be a nurse, Band said. She is currently in Canada on a work permit and stood to be deported if the case left her with a criminal record, Band wrote.
The women's guilty pleas were seen as mitigating factors in the case, as were their "genuine remorse" for their actions, their community service work and their lack of prior criminal records, among other factors.
Band also found both women to be excellent candidates for rehabilitation.
"I am of the view that a criminal record is not necessary to send the message to other law-abiding people that conduct like the defendants engaged in will not be tolerated," Band wrote. "I am satisfied that their actions were out of character."
Both women are on probation for 12 months, during which they will perform an additional 100 hours of community service.