Brazilian Officials Confront Accident Criminalization

 - December 3, 2012, 2:03 PM

Some Brazilian industry experts are convinced that criminalization will never improve aviation safety and they have been trying to persuade some the country’s judges and prosecutors to accept this premise in the wake of contentious accidents such as the 2006 midair between an Embraer Legacy and an a Gol Airlines Boeing 737. A week-long course beginning on November 26 in the capital Brasilia focused on the pros and cons of criminalization before an audience of federal judges, prosecutors, aviation safety investigators and assorted military officers and lawyers.

“It’s a complex subject that can have criminal consequences to be considered by both the military courts and by the federal courts, and civil consequences as well,” said STM minister José Coêlho Ferreira [a judge with Brazil’s superior military tribunal—Ed.]. AIN asked Col. Wagner Celso da Souza, assistant to the Air Force Commandant’s office, whether prosecutors and safety experts will ever see eye to eye. “There are divergent cultures,” he responded. “Part of the court system needs to understand SIPAER [Brazil’s aviation safety system], but the safety system also needs to understand the court systems’ obligations. After all, it’s the prosecutor’s job to blame someone.”

STM minister and air force lieutenant general William de Oliveira Barros summarized the course’s purpose as follows: “The purpose of this meeting is so you gentlemen know that, even though there has be an inquiry after an airplane accident, especially a fatal accident, you can’t confuse one with the other. A safety investigation is not a criminal investigation.”