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Frantic in-flight toilet door pounder poses legal puzzle

April 29, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59Confusion surrounding an allegedly disorderly passenger taken from an Australian aircraft in Bali was resolved yesterday when the man was released and flew back to Australia last night.

The odd incident has underscored the urgency of IATA demands to straighten out rules governing such matters.

Matthew Christopher Lockley, a 28-year-old Queensland plumber, triggered a hijack alert at Bali airport on Friday after he allegedly tried to enter the cockpit of a Bali-bound Virgin Australia B737. The plane was probably in international airspace at the time.

Lockley says he was sober and simply mistook the cockpit door for the toilet and pounded on it. The pilot was concerned enough to issue a hijack alert and Bali airport authorities acted accordingly. Complexities surrounding the issue seem to have stumped the Indonesian authorities at the weekend. Web-banner-300-250

Lockley was initially taken in for questioning by the military, which has jurisdiction at Bali airport, but was later handed over to Bali police. Indonesian officials said Lockley would likely not be formally charged, newspapers reported on Sunday.

Lockley was reportedly released late on Sunday and was flown back to Australia (again on Virgin Australia) last night.

In a statement to media on Sunday, Lockley said the whole thing had been “a huge misunderstanding”. The phrase “panic attack” was being used to describe his in-flight behaviour.

It will be up to Australian Federal Police to decide whether to charge Lockley, as it was an Australian flight. Latest reports say Lockley has been charged in Australia in relation to the matter.

Lockley’s problem may have arisen from a misunderstanding, but it came just a week or so after the International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged governments to close legal loopholes that allow unruly passengers to escape law enforcement for serious offences committed while flying on aircraft. Legislation must be tightened to make it easier to prosecute such people, IATA argued.

The Tokyo Convention, negotiated in 1963, gives jurisdiction over offences committed aboard aircraft to the state of registration of the aircraft. Indonesian authorities cited the Toyko Convention as the reason they couldn’t charge Lockley in Indonesia.

But, IATA points out, with modern leasing arrangements, the state of aircraft registry is often neither the state in which the aircraft lands nor the state of the operator. This limits the enforcement and the options available to deal with disruptive behaviour.

“For this reason, the airline industry supports proposals for jurisdiction to be extended to both the state in which the aircraft lands and the state in which the operator is located,” IATA declares.

IATA’s director general and chief executive, Tony Tyler, commented: “The Tokyo Convention was not originally designed to address unruly behaviour and there is a great deal of uncertainty amongst carriers as to what actions crew can take to manage incidents in the air. And if the aircraft lands in a state other than where the aircraft was registered, local authorities are not always able to prosecute.”

Jurisdictional puzzles cropped up in July last year, in a bizarre incident in which an airline passenger allegedly grew so enraged about his in-flight entertainment monitor not working that he tried to break into the cockpit on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Manila. Air marshals and cabin crew seized, restrained and arrested the man.

The plane continued to Manila and media in both the Philippines and Australia reported that the man was detained and sent back to Australia on the return flight. But that does not seem to have been the case.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph identified the angry man in last year’s incident as Mamudu Kamara, an Australian citizen travelling on Qantas flight QF19.

Newspapers in the Philippines the following day said the man was detained by the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group (PNP-ASG) – only to be sent packing, straight back to Australia.

A report headed “Aussie sent back after causing plane ruckus” in the online edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the most widely read broadsheet newspaper in the Philippines, stated that the Australian was sent back to Sydney on the Qantas flight’s return trip about an hour later.

The paper continued: “Since the alleged offence was committed on board an Australian plane, Australian law applied and Kamara would be charged in Australia.”

Australian news outlets echoed that line. But then things went very quiet. No subsequent charges were reported and the man’s return to Australia, if it happened, went unseen.

Intrigued, Global Travel Media phoned the AFP in Canberra to find what was going on.

The AFP looked into it.

“As far as we are aware, the offender is still in Manila,” they said.

It seems that police in the Philippines concluded that they had no power to charge Kamara.

Police in Indonesia, pondering similar complexities in Lockley’s case, seem to have reached the same conclusion, though they also might have decided there was no case to answer.

 

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. AgentGerko says:

    Misunderstanding my a%@&^%$@#. Since when has the loo been a locked door in the middle of the aisle at the front of the aircraft, and why was he pounding on the door? The Virgin 737 does have a loo at the front clearly marked, which is normally used by Business or Premium Economy passengers. I am appaled that this man has disrupted other flights, scared the so-and-so out of other passengers and not been charged or fined.

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