The BBC and Press Association claimed that Go-Pro cockpit footage from the Shoreham Air Crash should be disclosed to the media under the Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 2018, SI 2018 No. 321 (“the 2018 Regulations”). The footage will be shown to the jury in open court in the ongoing trial of Mr Hill that is being heard at the Old Bailey.
The main consideration was whether the disclosure of the footage to the media would be beneficial enough to the public interest to outweigh potential adverse impact, both in the UK and internationally, on future safety investigations. The AAIB, as the competent authority, is responsible for such safety investigations in the UK, and is entitled to collect such material for its exclusive use in its investigations. Material obtained by the AAIB is protected under Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention, and European Union law, both of which are implemented in the UK by the 2018 Regulations.
In 2016, the High Court had taken the unusual step of permitting the footage to be disclosed to the Police for the purposes of the criminal investigation (see our earlier article). Its use in the current trial prompted the press to seek its disclosure for use on television and other news sources.
Mr Justice Edis decided against disclosing the footage on the basis that to the media based on three main considerations: first was the specific warning against disclosure of such material to the public that is contained in the Chicago Convention, and the recent revision to that international convention that had reinforced this. He also relied on the media’s inability to control distribution when the disclosed footage could be disseminated at no cost on the internet and the adverse effect that such disclosure could have on pilots behaviour, affecting future safety investigations, and, importantly, damage to the UK’s standing in the world of international air investigation should the standards in the Chicago Convention not be followed.
David Manknell was instructed by the GLD for the first defendant, Secretary of State for Transport in his role as the minister responsible for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).