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Assaulting Crew

In Australia, the offence of assaulting crew members on an air vessel carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment. If the assault committed affects that crew member’s performance of their duties on board, then the maximum penalty rises to twenty years.

The Offence of Assaulting Crew

The offence of assaulting crew is set out in section 20A of the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991 which states: “A person commits an offence if:

  • (a) the person is on board an aircraft; and
  • (b) the Aircraft is a Division 3 aircraft; and
  • (c) the person assaults, threatens with violence or intimidates another person; and the other person is a member of the crew of the aircraft.”

The aggravated offence is contained in section 21 of the same Act, which states that the person must not do the above “in a manner that results in:

  • (a) an interference with the member’s performance of functions or duties connected with the operation of the aircraft; or
  • (b) a lessening of the member’s ability to perform those functions or duties.”

What Actions Might Constitute “Assaulting Crew?”

  1. Section 3 of the same Act defines a Division 3 aircraft. It includes aircrafts that are intended or likely to be engaged in prescribed flights, within Australia and internationally. It also includes Commonwealth aircraft, defence aircrafts and foreign aircraft in Australia or intended to end their journey in Australia.
  2. The slightest touch may constitute assault, however, Police would usually not charge a person unless there is a significant degree of force applied or threats of violence.
  3. Assault covers punching, hitting and kicking, as well as threatening to hurt another person. Spitting is another form of assault and is treated very seriously.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict you of “Assault Crew”, the Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  1. You were on Board a Division 3 aircraft;
  2. Assaulted, threatened with violence or intimidated another person; and
  3. That other person was a member of the crew of the aircraft.

To convict you of the aggravated offence of “Assault Crew”, the Police must also prove beyond reasonable doubt that the above actions resulted in:-

  1. Interference with that member’s performance of function’s or duties, connected with the operation of the aircraft; or
  2. The lessening of that member’s ability to perform their functions or duties.

Possible Defences for Assaulting Crew

  1. Duress
  2. Necessity
  3. Self Defence

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Under Commonwealth law, the offence contained in section 20A of the Act is an indictable offence. This means that it will be dealt with in the District Court, however, it may be dealt with in the Local Court with the consent of both the prosecutor and the defendant. If the matter is finalised in the District Court, this will give rise to harsher penalties.

However, the aggravated offence contained in section 21 of the Act is a strictly indictable offence. This means that the matter can only be finalised in the District or Supreme Courts.


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