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Air Travel (Crime)

Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what powers are available to British Airways to institute criminal prosecutions or civil actions for damages on behalf of passengers assaulted by other air travellers while airborne; and if he is satisfied with existing arrangements to protect air passengers from physical violence or abuse in the air.

Assaults on passengers in British aircraft over the United Kingdom are covered by the ordinary criminal law. Such offences, whether over the United Kingdom or not, are covered by Section 1 of the Tokyo Convention Act 1967, Sections 1 and 2 of the Hijacking Act 1971 and Section 1 of the Protection of Aircraft Act 1973.Prosecutions under these Acts would not normally be instituted by British Airways. They can be instituted in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland, only by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney-General, as the case may be. In Scotland prosecutions are normally instituted by the Procurator Fiscal, who is answerable to the Lord Advocate.

British Airways have no power to institute civil actions on behalf of their passengers. It is for the passengers themselves to institute such actions.

Under the Protection of Aircraft Act 1973 my Department advises on security measures designed to prevent weapons or explosives being taken on board aircraft departing from United Kingdom airports. These measures are under constant review. Most other countries have similar measures.