Endangering Safety of aircraft
In Australia, the offence of endangering the safety of an aircraft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. If the action committed is likely to endanger a person’s life or cause serious harm, then the maximum penalty rises to fourteen years imprisonment.
The Offence of Endangering Safety of Aircraft
The offence of ‘endangering the safety of aircraft’ is contained in section 22 of the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991 which states: “a person who, while on board a Division 3 aircraft does an act, reckless as to whether the act will endanger the safety of the aircraft, is guilty of an offence.”
The aggravated offence is contained in section 22A of the same act which states that an offence is committed if a person does the above and “the act constituting the offence is likely to endanger a person’s life or cause serious harm to a person.”
What Actions Might Constitute ‘Endangering the Safety of Aircraft’?
- 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 aircrafts, defence aircrafts and foreign aircrafts in Australia or intended to end their journey in Australia.
- A person can be considered to have performed an act ‘recklessly’ if they entertained the possibility that some kind of injury or harm would occur as a result of their actions. It does not need to be the specific injury or harm that eventuated.
- These sections are very broadly drafted and only requires ‘an act’ that would endanger the safety of the aircraft. This will cover any act, for example, assaulting crew members or passengers, distracting crew members or making a scene would be sufficient to fulfil this element.
- There is no requirement for that act to have actually endangered the safety of the aircraft, as long as it was reasonably possible to have endangered the safety of the aircraft.
What the Police Must Prove
To convict you of an offence under this section, the Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You were on Board a Division 3 aircraft;
- You performed an act; and
- You were reckless as to whether that act would endanger the safety of the aircraft.
To convict you of the aggravated offence, the Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the above actions were likely to endanger a person’s life or cause serious harm to a person.
Possible Defences for Endangering Safety of Aircraft
Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?
Under Commonwealth law, the offence contained in section 22 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 22A of the Act is a strictly indictable offence. This means that the matter can only be finalised in the District or Supreme Courts.