Location: Down at the sharp pointy end, where all the weather is made.
Interesting to note the variation in fines and costs ordered in different courts
...only intersting if you have the full facts of each case to hand and can thereby make some sort of value judgement. One assumes the dangerous goods cases are where airlines are carrying materials that haven't been properly packed or documented. Remember the ValueJet DC9 that crashed in the Everglades due to undocumented and illegaly carried cargo. More power to the CAA to prevent a recurrence.
What we need is someone with access to all these cases to give us chapter and verse on the relative merits of each. That would make it more interesting!
I note with particular interest, however, that the most hotly contested case seemed to have involved a motorist airside, not a pilot or an engineer. It seems the Crown Court backed up both the Magistrate's court and the CAA's view that this case was worth persuing.
If you read through the list of occurrences published along with GASCo's magazine, there are pages and pages of infringements and happenings that go unprosecuted. It seems the CAA only use the courts as a last resort to ensure compliance with rules placed for everyone's safety.
I was instructed to defend in the 4 matters below.
The Stafford and Bournemouth trials were taken over by barrister (and PPL) Stephen Spence when I became unavailable.
Stafford Magistrates Court
Prosecution of a microlight pilot for Endangering person/property (Article 64) following an accident during attempted go-around.
Pilot found Not Guilty and awarded Defence Costs.
Chatham Magistrates Court “Dangerous low flying under motorway bridge. Guilty Plea.”
That is a distortion of the case.
The true facts:
Microlight pilot flew under the Medway bridge. ie Under the road bridge over the River Medway. He was was prosecuted for Endangering aircraft (Art 73), Endangering person/ property(Art 74) & breach of Rule 5 (2)(b).
He pleaded Not Guilty to both Endangering charges, and Guilty only to breaching the 500 feet provision in Rule 5 - which does not contain a 'dangerous' element. There is no such offence as "dangerous low flying". The CAA dropped both Endangering charges.
Wisely IMHO. Any pilot familiar with the relative sizes of a microlight and the Medway bridge will understand why the endangering charges were denied.
Bournemouth Crown Court
Interesting that the CAA record it as “Found Guilty of Article 8. Found Not Guilty of endangering.”
The CAA prosecuted the pilot of corporate jet for Endangering aircraft (Article 63) and Endangering person/property on the ground (Article 64). That was what the prosecution was about.
However, during the course of the trial, the CAA was allowed to add an additional offence of flying without a valid CofA. (Rendered invalid by a defect.)
The CAA lost both Endangering counts.
The pilot was convicted only of the additional, and far less serious, offence.
Newport (Isle of Wight)
Pilot prosecuted for alleged low flying (500 feet provision Rule 5) in a Hunter.
Pilot found Not Guilty and awarded Defence costs.
Is there a pattern?
Look at the CAA's low success rate in contested cases.
Look at the high percentage of Guilty pleas. Pilots plead Guily for many reasons. The two main reasons (in my experience at the Bar) are either that they have no defence or that they have a good defence but are afraid of the large sums they may be ordered to pay the CAA in prosecution costs if they fight the case and lose.
It seems the Crown Court backed up both the Magistrate's court and the CAA's view that this case was worth persuing.
No. That does not follow. Courts decide whether an alleged offence is proved. They are required to apply the law; they have no power to decide if a case is 'worth pursuing.'
It seems the CAA only use the courts as a last resort to ensure compliance with rules placed for everyone's safety.
That is a claim often made by the CAA. It was not my experience of many years involved in CAA cases when I was a barrister.
Interesting to see No. 7 (Stafford) where someone loss control during an attempted go around. They were found not guilty but I would have thought if he went around there was a good reason and you dont really want people worrying if they will be prosecuted for attempting a GA, they probably have enough to deal with at that point.
I notice a couple in there under the general area of falsifying logbooks/documents, which for some reason has really surprised me.
Am I alone in wondering how silly some people must be to think that they can get away with it seeing how relatively straightforward in can be to verify once the CAA suspects something isn't quite right?
Am I reading correctly that if you plead not guilty and are found guilty you could end up being fined and on top of that have to pay the CAA's costs for persuing the prosecution? If that is correct, is this a civil or a criminal case - or is there no distinction made under UK law? In fact do you have to pay the CAA's costs even if you plead not guilty - surely they could just fine you directly?
Aircraft took off with concrete block still attached
Aircraft took off with concrete block still attached
I had to chuckle when I saw that. It reminded me of a time during my training at Cranfield when this chap forgot to remove a tie-down from one of the concrete blocks securing his aircraft. He tried to taxy and ended up going round in a circle. I was peeing myself with laughter as I watch from the ops window.
Look at the CAA's low success rate in contested cases. Look at the high percentage of Guilty pleas. Pilots plead Guily for many reasons. The two main reasons (in my experience at the Bar) are either that they have no defence or that they have a good defence but are afraid of the large sums they may be ordered to pay the CAA in prosecution costs if they fight the case and lose.
Motorist speeding and parking offences seem to exhibit the same pattern, and i'm sure many others do too. It appears that in many cases if one has the 'balls' to question the authorities (i.e plead not guilty) then one has a pretty good chance of winning.
I must agree with FL that some of those descriptions are a tad disingenuous -"flying under a motorway bridge" and "flying a microlight under the medway bridge" do conjour up ever so slightly different images!. (for those that don't know it, its hardly the millau viaduct, but it ain't small!)
Have you moved on to another calling?
I beleive that FL should change his name to Flying Judge.