Australian Government Seeks Harsher Punishments for Aviation-Related Crimes
The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor initially introduced the ‘Aviation Crimes and Policing Legislation Amendment Bill 2010′ earlier this year. It was prorogued and is now being introduced again.
“Attacks and threatened attacks on our aviation industry put lives at risk, cause great distress and impose unnecessary burdens on our aviation industry,” O’Connor said. “The Gillard Government wants to strengthen aviation security in Australia and, if passed, this Bill will make our skies a safer place for airlines, their staff and the traveling public.”
Under the Bill, maximum penalties for aviation-related crimes will increase significantly. The bill calls for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for hoax offenses such as calling an airline and saying a bomb is on a plane or threatening to bomb an airport, which currently carries a two year maximum jail term.
The bill further calls for a maximum 14 years in prison for offenses against aircraft or aviation environments, such as damaging a runway or air traffic control facilities at a major airport. This offense currently carries maximum jail terms of seven or ten years.
For very serious offenses that pose danger or cause harm to groups of people, such as assaulting a pilot or endangering an aircraft while in flight, the bill would raise the maximum jail term to 20 years. Currently, these offenses carry a maximum jail term of 7, 14 or 15 years.
Offenses such as hijacking or destroying an aircraft and being reckless as to causing death will continue to hold a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“These crimes not only cause great distress and inconvenience, but can also compromise public safety, for example where a flight has to be diverted at short notice or where an airport needs to be evacuated suddenly,” O’Connor added.
Besides raising the maximum jail terms, the bill also calls for three new offenses to be included. The first is assaulting an aircraft crew member, which could result in a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Further, the bill would add ‘reckless endangerment of an aircraft’ where danger or serious harm or death can be shown. This offense would carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Third, the offense ‘having dangerous goods onboard an aircraft’ where there is a risk of serious harm or death would also be added. This offense would also carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.