Pengolodh (s.c) (pengolodh_sc) wrote,
Pengolodh (s.c)

Norwegian court convicts British Airways pilot to 6 months prison

Norwegian court convicts British Airways pilot to 6 months prison

In the court Eidsvoll Tingrett, a British Airways pilot was convicted to six months in prison for planning to take off with an intoxicated crew, and a purser to 45 days in prison for intoxication on duty, while the case against one other pilot, charged with intoxication on duty, was postponed.

On November 11th the convicted pilot was the captain of a BA flight due to carry 56 passengers from Oslo to Heathrow. Following a tip from British Airways, Norwegian police boarded the aircraft shortly before take-off, detained the seven strong crew and took breathalizer tests of all crewmembers. According to newsreports at the time, the police had stated that the captain, first officer and purser all tested positive, but it has later appeared that the captain was not intoxicated. Further bloodtests were taken of the crewmembers in question, and it was determined that the first officer had a blood alcohol content of 0.102 percent, and the pusers 0.134 percent (is permill for 1/1000 used in English?).

While the captain himself was not intoxicated, the court gave him severe punishment (by Norwegian standards, anyway), since as the highest authority onboard he was responsible for the aircraft's security, as well as for ensuring that the crew was in a state where they were capable of carrying out their duties. The court also found that the captain had to have known the crewmembers were intoxicated - according to the police the intoxication was evident by sight and by smell.

A bit about Norwegian courts, as I understand it:

I thought it might be appropriate to give a short explanation of how the mentioned court fits into the Norwegian court structure.

Firstly, the Norwegian word rett has several meanings which, while different, are somewhat related. These are:
  • straight (a straight line)
  • right/correct
  • a court of law
  • justice
There are four levels of courts in Norway - the court involved in the present case is a lagmannsrett, which is on the second highest level - complemented by settlement councils, which is a less formal method of settling issues (preferred in less serious criminal cases, particularly where young offenders are involved, and also for civil cases, when the parties can manage to settle).

  1. The lowest level is termed forhørsrett - this term translates as question/interrogation court, and is precided over by a single judge. These courts serve only to determine whether police may hold a suspect in arrest during the course of a criminal investigation. The police must present evidence that the suspect is likely to run away, or that his/her freedom may otherwise harm the investigation. Such courts can at most authorise periods of four weeks - if the police wishes to detain the subject longer than that, they have to appear before the court again, and present evidence that such conditions still exist that it may be harmful that the suspect is freed.

  2. The second level, and the lowest level that will actually hear and pass judgement on cases (civil or criminal) has for the last 10-15 years been termed tingrett (prior to that byrett - city court - in cities, and herredsrett - more or less parish court, though one court area would contain many parishes - in rural areas. The word means assembly court, and recalls the history of this level of judicial authority in Norway - well into the 19th century, less serious cases were heard in courts formed by local citizens' assemblies held at regular intervals.

    Citizen assemblies were regularly held local assemblies where all citizens in a district could (and generally did) appear, to hear announcements of new laws, settle civil disagreements, elect persons to represent the citizens to the authorities, etc. Citizens could be drawn to be jurors for cases concerning lesser criminal cases (petty theft, acts of violence, premarital sex, etc.). These assemblies were one remnant of a semi-democratic legal and governmental system that had existed in Norway from Trøndelag (the region of central Norway, about halfway between the northern and southern ends of Norway) and southwards since at least the late iron-age.

    There would be no judge with legal training to assist the jurors, but a sworn writer (svoren skriver) would be sowrn by oath to advice on law, and keep written record of proceedings - he would be sworn to write truly. The office still exists, termed sorenskriver - < sorenskriver will often also be a judge, as well as publicus notarius.

    Currently a tingrett is presided on by one judge and two lay co-judges. Co-judges are selected at random from legally adult citizens, and one may not refuse to serve without good cause. Verdicts are passed by simple majority among the judges.

  3. The third level is the lagmannsrett, which serves as the first court for some serious crimes, and as a court of appeals for the tingrett. The term directly translated becomes law man court - this refers to how traditionally local assemblies would elect citizens to serve as lawmen (jurors) in regional courts, which would handle more serious crimes, and also appeals from decisions in courts at the local assemblies.

    These regional courts have the same jurisdictions as the highest-level assemblies in Norway in the viking and middle ages. The large south-eastern part of Norway had the assembly Eidsivating. The well-populated southern coastal area, near Denmark, had the assembly Gulating. No the Western coastline South of Trøndelag, the assembly was called Borgarting. In Trøndelag the free men assembled at Frostating. The regional courts today are named for these assemblies - Eidsivating Lagmansrett, etc.

    The fifth lagmannsrett, Hålogaland Lagmansrett, is responsible for Northern Norway, but this court is named for the ancient name of this aprt of the country, not for an assembly. The reason is that in the viking ages, Northern Norway was ruled by an aristocracy so powerful that no assemblies were held - the chieftains and earls "spoke for everyone".

    A lagmannsrett may have two different compositions, depending on the nature of the case heard. It can either have three judges and four lay co-judges (called meddomsrett, or co-judgement court, because the judges and co-judges make their decision independently), or it can have three judges and a jury of ten lay co-judges, who make their decision on their own - in the latter case the jury decides on the question of guilt, and the judges decide the severity of punishment.

  4. The final level is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the ultimate court of appeals as established in Article 88 of the Constitution ("The Supreme Court pronounces judgement in the final instance"), but only decides whether a case should be re-tried or not. It also rules on matters of constitutionality, and on whether decisions made by the government are in accordance with Norwegian law, but Norway as a rule is less strict on constitutionality than USA is - several aspects of the current ways of government are in contradiction of the Constitution as presently written. One example is parliamentarism - currently a government must have support from a maority in our parliament to be formed, but the Constitution states that "the King appoints his ministers Himself".

    The court has a Chief Justice, and 18 Ordinary Justices. Any case will be precided over by five Justices. The Appeals Selection Committee decides whether an appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court, and has three justices, but is classed as a separate court. For details, see the English section of the Supreme Court's webpages
It should be mentioned also that Norwegians, like Scandinavians in general, seem to favour the rule of law. We have a more than one thousand years old tradition in Scandinavia for laws, with the laws generally working to rpotect the people, and this traditiona translates into a general attitude towards the rule of law. In the high middle ages king Mangus Lagabøter (= Magnus the Law-Mender) prefaced his new national law (which replaced the previous regional laws) with the statement: "With law (the) land shall be built, and not with un-law wasted."


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