Helvetica Team - 22 Jul 2022
An acquittal for the history books?
20 July 2022
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court declares an acquittal in the last pending criminal case in connection with an incident without consequences. The verdict, the reasons, but above all the pending change in the law in the spirit of "Just Culture" gives hope for a new era in Swiss jurisprudence.
The Swiss Controllers Association HelvetiCA is pleased to note the ruling of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court of 29 June 2022. The proceedings concerned an incident at Zurich Airport ten years ago, namely the approach of two aircraft at the runway crossing.
Following the conviction of the air traffic controller charged with negligently disrupting public traffic by the Bülach District Court, the High Court of the canton of Zurich had acquitted the man in the second instance. The Federal Supreme Court has now confirmed this judgement.
The air traffic controller had intervened in the event in a corrective manner before a danger could take on a concrete form. In this case, an increased abstract danger is just as irrelevant for the court as hypothetical sequences of events or the question of whether a coincidence or the behaviour of those involved had prevented something worse.
In HelvetiCA's opinion, the argumentation is interesting; the attitude behind it seems to differ from previous rulings. Also, after several proceedings against air traffic controllers in connection with inconsequential incidents, no charges have been brought in years. Whether one can speak of a rethink in the Swiss legal system remains to be hoped.
What is certain is that the proposal currently in elaboration on how the principle of "Just Culture" can be anchored in Swiss law is likely to lead to a fundamental change. In future, employees in high reliability industries (aviation, health care, etc.) should be able to report an incident that does not involve gross negligence without having to fear legal consequences. As experience in other states shows, this will have a positive impact on safety. HelvetiCA has supported this principle for years and is working towards its implementation.
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