Destruction of Aircraft: What the law says

Raila Odinga’s chopper that was damaged in Soy, Uasin Gishu County on April 1, 2022. [Standard]

Suspects behind stoning a helicopter carrying ODM leader Raila Odinga could face a jail term of 14 years.

Section 5 of Protection of Aircraft Act states:

“Any person who, whether in or outside Kenya, willfully and unlawfully—
(a)    onboard an aircraft in flight commits an assault that is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft;
(b)    destroys an aircraft in service;
(c)    causes damage to an aircraft in service which renders the aircraft incapable of flight or which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft in flight;
(d)    places or causes to be placed on an aircraft in service anything which is likely to destroy the aircraft, or to cause damage to the aircraft which will render it incapable of flight, or which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft in flight;
(e)    endangers the safety of an aircraft in flight by communicating to another person information which the person supplying the information knows to be false;
(f)    destroys, damages or interferes with the operation of any air navigation facility used in international air navigation where the destruction, damage or interference is likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

According to lawyer Dennis Anyoka, if charged with any of the offences above, which is contrary to malicious destruction of property, is due to the nature of aircraft.

“The reason the offence falls under criminal law is because of the whole nature of aircraft. That the life it will endanger is equivalent to killing someone. An attack on an aircraft may lead it to a crash, hence the punishment in the event one is found to have damaged an aircraft based on the investigations,” said Anyoka.

The lawyer further cautions that criminal law is particular.

“For this case, it is particular to those who destroyed. Those who may not have been there but are found to have aided or facilitated [the destruction] will be charged with the offence of aiding the destruction.”

Anyoka advises that investigations have to be complete to ascertain the level of involvement of the suspects, whether it was politically motivated or intended to cause harm.

The aircraft whose details are yet to be made public was pelt with stones last week, shortly after Raila Odinga boarded after visiting Jackson Kibor’s home.

According to a source in the aviation industry, the risk of a damaged windshield is high.

“Such a scenario may lead to the possibility of a crash, and question the integrity of the aircraft. It’s like a car windshield, hence a damaged one means you’re not protected and may be hit by foreign objects.

Investigations are ongoing, as police continue to hold 14 suspects.