Criminalisation trend threatens safety says ERA

The increasing number towards prosecution of airline personnel before the cause of an air accident has been determined is a serious threat to air safety, according to the European Regions Airline Association (ERA), which has responded by publishing a 20-page document to its members with advice on how to put measures in place to defend themselves against unjust criminal procedures.

The Association cites the recent Airbus/Air France A330 case as an example of this growing practice. ERA’s document was produced in conjunction with law firm and ERA member Gates & Partners.

“We have been forced to produce this document because of the increasing global trend to give a higher priority to the apportionment of blame rather than to determination of the factors which may have caused an incident or accident,” explained Mike Ambrose, ERA’s director general. “Experience has shown that it is not just key post holders within airlines that may be subject to prosecution, but anyone in the organisation who is concerned or involved in safety operations. These people need professional and expert advice in order to defend themselves against justice systems that are prejudiced towards persecution rather than prevention of air accidents.”

ERA has been a long-standing advocate of no-penalty occurrence reporting as the best method for the prevention of accidents. “The ability for an individual to admit an unintentional error without fear of penalty, which others can subsequently learn from, is of benefit to airlines and their passengers,” Ambrose emphasised.

Brian Simpson MEP, chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport & Tourism Committee provided the Foreword to the document, in which he comments, “The criminalisation of air accidents and incidents is on the rise, with many countries being intent on finding a culprit rather than determining the factors involved in causing the incident in the first place and the subsequent implementation of measures that would avoid a repeat scenario. Forced with this real threat of criminal prosecution, Board members and key post holders in any airline have an obligation to ensure that they and their employees are aware that the exposure to a criminal prosecution can be a very traumatic and expensive exercise.”

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