Space oddity?

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

It had to happen at some point: the first allegation of a criminal act in outer space.

The locus: the international space station orbiting Planet Earth.

The suspect: a NASA astronaut.

The alleged offence: the astronaut in question is accused of hacking into her ex-wife’s bank account from the international space station. Good old fashioned fraud or theft in a hi-tech setting. At last reality is catching up with all those fictional crime dramas set in outer space.

Which criminal law has jurisdiction? Good question.

Thankfully, we have a point of reference: Article VIII of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Article VIII states:

A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body.

That said, no single State/country or Agency (e.g. NASA or ESA/ASE) controls the international space station. We do have an Inter-governmental Agreement signed in 1998 regulating the space station and Article 22 is particularly relevant (please see the image below):

Under the terms of Article 22, it looks as if the Americans probably have jurisdiction in the matter because one its astronauts is alleged to have committed the crime.

Readers can find a link below to the Inter-governmental Agreement of 1998:

Should we be surprised about this development? No, wherever humans go, crimes will undoubtedly be committed. As space travel, exploration and colonisation become more common in the coming decades, expect more stories about crime in outer space and the need to police it effectively.

A link to the story as reported on Sky News can be found below:

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 30 August 2019

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 30 August 2019

Where there’s blame, there’s a claim?

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

Where there’s blame, there’s a claim? Not if you try to fake an accident there isn’t, as one woman from West Yorkshire has found to her cost.

Trip and slip claims are very common types of delict actions (tort in England), but they have to be genuine if the pursuer (claimant) is to have any chance of success. In Chapter 3 of Introductory Scots Law, I discuss the most common type of delictual claim – negligence – and the fact that the pursuer generally must prove that the defender was at fault.

On 2 April 2019, the BBC reported that Farida Ashraf of West Yorkshire had been successfully convicted in a private prosecution, at Bradford Crown Court, brought by the insurance company, Aviva. Ms Ashraf had submitted a personal injury claim for £3,000 in relation to an alleged accident at a Bradford supermarket. This civil claim had been dismissed because it was basically fraudulent. Aviva then commenced a private prosecution against Ms Ashraf, which resulted in her receiving a 21 month prison sentence (suspended for 2 years).

As a point of comparison between Scotland and England, it’s interesting to note that this was a private prosecution brought by Aviva. Such an action would not have happened in Scotland because the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service decide whether criminal proceedings should have been initiated – not a private party like Aviva. In Scotland, insurance companies can, of course, report their suspicions to the Police that a claim may be fraudulent. The Police can investigate and a report will then be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

The private prosecution brought against Ms Ashraf is thought to be one of the first successful types of such actions in England.

A link to the BBC article can be found below:

Woman staged fall at Bradford store to claim payment

Farida Ashraf tripped over a crate placed by accomplices and tried to claim £3,000 for injuries.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 3 April 2019