Aviation Safety/ Risk Management Jeopardized by Judicial Criminalizations

March 18, 2009

Attention turns now to a different type of concern.  Like Technosteria’s original concerns about “green hysteria”, this one is global in scope and also involves risk management.  There is an alarming trend toward attempts to criminalize simple human error/ fallability in the aftermath of some serious accidents, particularly transport-related ones, and more particularly aviation ones. 


So far, this new form of scapegoating has been manifested only in a scattering of countries.  Of course scapegoating itself is as old as the hills, as so well documented in Western culture in the biblical Old Testament.  But these recent examples suggest attempts to impose, by judicial fiat alone, a standard of diligence and error-free performance which is entirely at odds with the reality of human fallibility.   


These un-warranted criminal charges are being prosecuted against operations professionals, engineers and oversight people.  They ignore – and would obliterate – centuries-old Western legal traditions which require an explicit finding of ‘wilfullness’ or intent (“mens rea”) as a precondition for sustaining criminal charges.  


The great harm of these judicial incursions extends far beyond the gross injustice to the targeted individuals, bad enough as that is.  Soon enough, people working in these fields will (quite understandably!) develop an “Atlas-Shrugged” attitude, saying in effect, “Enough of this – I quit”.  The more long-lasting and much broader-scope harms of these judicial attacks are therefore the stifling of progress, and ultimately of global prosperity itself.


Manifestations of these harms are difficult to discern, but are apt to develop quite rapidly in response to even initial attacks.  It is high time that the people being attacked join with others who recognize these problems to develop awareness among others outside of the targeted professional communities, of the fundamental injustice of these judicial intrusions, and the threat they pose to the general well-being. 


From a strategic perspective, we should probably initially focus “consciousness-raising” efforts on regulatory and judicial oversight officials, as well as members of the Media.  And while it’s quite difficult to develop much awareness of and concern for this type issue among the ‘lay’ or general public, the more alert individuals – whom we can reach – will be good allies in building the general awareness needed to begin quashing these judicial oversteps.


Posted along with this introduction are several flyers distributed at the recent 21st annual European Aviation Safety Seminar, where Technosteria had an exhibit for the aviation safety community.  From the seminar proceedings themselves, it was abundantly clear that aviation safety professionals are already keenly aware of these harmful judicial attacks, and of the threat they pose to further progress in aviation safety.  


It’s time to carry this message “abroad” (to the general public, and relevant government officials)!




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