Aviation legal expert says individuals can be charged with sexual assault in the city where the plane lands.
Sexual assault reports on airplanes are becoming more common even though many complaints never head to court, according to an aviation law expert.
Ruwantissa Abeyratne, an aviation law expert at McGill University, said these types of assaults are more common than many people think.
Air Canada passenger alleges seat mate groped her as she slept
“It is common in the sense that up in the air, there are no lights after supper and people go to sleep and all that,” Abeyratne said.
“There have been many instances reported, which have not necessarily gone into the courts.”
The comments come in the wake of a story of a Saint John woman who alleges she was groped by a man sitting next to her on an Air Canada flight to Toronto.
The 40-year-old man has been charged and the court has ordered a publication ban, so the woman can’t be named.
Abeyratne said if a person is on a domestic or international flight, criminal charges can be laid in the country or city of arrival.
Ruwantissa Abeyratne, an aviation law expert at McGill University, said reports of sexual assaults on planes are becoming more common. (CBC)
Every airport is covered by a local policing agency and in the Saint John woman’s case, the Peel Regional Police arrested the suspect at Pearson airport in Toronto.
It is unclear how many sexual assaults have been reported in North America.
A NBC news report a year ago said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into a surge of sexual assaults on U.S. flights.
But the report also said no federal agencies were tracking statistics.
U.S. authorities aren’t the only ones that are not tracking sexual assault data on flights.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says it’s unaware of specific statistics captured on a national scale related to sexual assaults and aviation.
Transport Canada has also not responded to requests for statistics on sexual assaults in the country.
Civil suit being considered.
Laura Veniot, a Halifax lawyer, said she is speaking to the New Brunswick woman about her legal options over Air Canada’s response to her complaints. (CBC)
The Saint John woman is also considering a civil suit against Air Canada for its handling of her complaint.
Laura Veniot, a Halifax lawyer, said she is speaking to the New Brunswick woman about her legal options.
“The victim’s not looking for a big lawsuit. She’s not looking for money,” she said.
But she said her client mainly wants an apology and assurance from Air Canada that staff will be better trained to handle future complaints.
“She’s a frequent flier and she’s interested in what we’re all interested in when we get on a plane. We want to be safe,” she said.
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