Organisations unite to stop growing practice of prosecution before investigation

A group of influential aviation organisations has launched a campaign against the practice of initiating criminal proceedings in connection with aircraft accidents before investigators have established the technical and operational facts.

The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), the UK Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) and the Academie Nationale de L'Air et de L'Espace (ANAE) contend that the growing worldwide practice of seeking criminal prosecutions immediately harms the process of investigation, and therefore safety itself, by causing all parties involved to act defensively.

Eurocontrol recently held a workshop at its headquarters in Brussels on related issues that it claims is a world first. "For the first time," says the agency, "justice, transport, legal and aviation experts have come together to discuss how to promote a 'just culture' - a reporting climate crucial to the promotion of public safety in which people are encouraged to provide essential safety-related information."

Eurocontrol has added its voice to the campaign, adding that "flight safety is being jeopardised through [failure to apply] a just culture in the reporting and analysis of safety occurrences. Eurocontrol has established from extensive research and interviews that legal structures and procedures can be contributing factors in delaying the application of a just culturethis workshop has allowed us to come together to explore the sometimes complex legal issues involved."

CANSO secretary general Alexander ter Kuile says: "Punishment should be reserved for those who are breaking the law."

FSF chief executive Bill Voss says: "We are increasingly alarmed that the focus of governments is to conduct lengthy, expensive and highly disruptive criminal investigations in an attempt to exact punishment, instead of the free flow of information to understand what has happened and why, and prevent recurrence." The 189 International Civil Aviation Organisation member states have ratified a treaty that states that technical and operational investigation shall precede any attempt by the courts to establish whether criminal negligence played any part in an accident.

Source: Flight International