Man fined over Ebola joke on Dublin to Milan Aer Lingus flight
A man arrested over "a sick joke" about Ebola on a Dublin-bound plane has been told to pay 2,500 euros (£1,963) to charity to avoid a criminal conviction.
Roberto Binaschi, 56, from Italy, was arrested at Dublin Airport on Thursday.
He had written "Attenzione Ebola" on the lid of a disposable coffee cup as a joke with his daughter while on board the Aer Lingus flight from Milan.
The cup was disposed of in the usual way, but cabin crew spotted the words on the lid, sparking an alert.
At Dublin District Court on Friday, Mr Binaschi apologised and said he never intended to cause concern.
The court was told Mr Binaschi was on the flight with his wife and daughter to attend a conference in Dublin.
His daughter had ordered a coffee and he took a sip from the cup first. She told him his germs were on the coffee cup and as a joke he wrote "Attenzione Ebola" on the lid.
His daughter then finished the coffee and the cup was disposed of.
When a member of the cabin crew spotted the words, Mr Binaschi was asked if he had written them and he said he had.
The court was told his wife was sitting with them and was not even aware of the joke. At no time was the cup or lid exposed to anyone else on the plane.
A judge said he could not think of a more serious offence given the present day fear of Ebola.
He said it was like writing on a napkin that there is a bomb on the plane.
"He was over international waters on an international flight, that is how serious it is," the judge said.
However, after hearing evidence from the defendant who said he now realised the anxiety he had caused after what was a private joke with his daughter, the judge said it did not warrant a prison sentence.
The judge said Mr Binaschi was disposing of the cup rather than bringing it to the attention of the cabin crew which was a factor that had to be taken into consideration.
"It cannot be described as anything but a sick joke," the judge said.
He ordered Mr Binaschi to pay €2,500 to the Capuchin Friary in Bow Street in Dublin and applied the Probation Act.