3 February 2010

Grindingly Slow French Justice

Yesterday, after nearly 10 years, the trial of those charged with the terrible Concorde crash in July 2000 began. Three Frenchmen, all associated with the design, on-going operations and maintenance of the Concorde programme, and two Continental Airways employees are up before the French beaks. They are all charged with manslaughter.

The trial will take care of itself but the fact that Concorde had several near misses when tyres blew out and punctured its wings and fuel tanks, points to a severe design problem which nobody did a thing about until after the crash. Aged 70, 72 and 80, the French defendants look as though they will have a tough case in front of them whilst it seems to me to be more difficult to pin any responsibility on the Continental employees who are blamed for ‘allowing’ a metal strip to fall off of their plane which in turn, caused the Concorde’s tyres to blow.

It will be a closely watched trial.

But why did it take nearly 10 years for it to come to court? The crash investigation was completed years ago which is why, after wing and fuel tank modifications were made, Concorde was allowed to fly again. I’m afraid it’s just another case of the painfully slow legal process in France.

As I’ve written before, commit a serious crime in France and you can be in the slammer for 3, 4 or 5 years before your trial comes up. And what if you are then pronounced innocent?

As far as the Concorde trial is concerned these old men have had a sword hanging over their heads for nearly 10 years. OK – they’re not in jail but not a day could have passed when these people didn’t think about their fate. France has a long history of finding someone to blame for accidents and disasters – no matter how long it takes - it must be something in their psyche.

The French press believe that the French guys at least will be found guilty (there’s so much evidence against them) and will get suspended jail sentences which is completely irrelevant. Are they going to commit other crimes? At 70, 72 and 80 years of age.

It’s just the French legal system going through the motions to be seen to be doing something. A complete waste of time if you ask me. These three men will have to live with the consequences of their actions (or non-action) for their remaining years and in fact have been suffering for the last nine and a half years.

No comments: