By Luisa Girao - ODT
A judge has chastised a man who joked about a bomb being in his bag at Invercargill Airport, describing his actions as ''remarkably stupid''.
Truck driver Stewart George Dempsey (58), of Napier, appeared by audio visual-link on Tuesday at the Invercargill District Court.
He pleaded guilty to two charges — an amendmended charge of threatening to damage the airport and breach of his limited driver licence conditions.
Police prosecutor Marcus McMahon said on January 22, Dempsey approached Air New Zealand staff ahead of his flight, which was scheduled for later in the afternoon.
When the staff member asked if he had any bags to check in, Dempsey pointed to the bags and made the following comment: ''Yeah, the bags over there, the ones with the bombs in them.''
Sgt McMahon said immediately after the comment, he started to laugh and stated it was a joke.
However, the airport had to follow its protocols and evacuate the premises — with Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand services and St John Ambulance called.
When Dempsey was arrested and taken to the police station , he was asked to produce his driving logbook and within the paperwork, police found his limited licence which forbade him to drive in the South Island.
The police summary of facts says, when questioned he declined to comment about the bomb incident, but when asked about the driving, he commented he did not think about limited licence conditions when he was offered the job to drive a truck to Invercargill.
''He stated it slipped his mind,'' Sgt McMahon said.
Last month, duty lawyer David Slater said the man had been blacklisted from Air New Zealand and banned from the Invercargill Airport following the incident.
Yesterday (Feb 23), defence lawyer Cam Robertson said his client was extremely remorseful of his ''stupid actions'' and took the full responsibility.
Mr Robertson suggested the matter be dealt with, with reparation paid to St John Ambulance as it was the only self-funded service which attended the call.
Disqualification for his client would create a hardship as he was truck driver and would impact on his ability to earn — however he was ready to accept the sentence.
Judge John Brandts-Giesen said jokes of this nature were unacceptable in a place like an airport and said his actions were "remarkably stupid''.
On the charge threatening to damage, Judge Brandts-Giesen convicted him and ordered him to pay $500 reparation to St John Ambulance.
He also convicted Dempsey on the breach of his licence and fined him in $400 and suspended him from driving for six months.