cell phoner jailed

Alexa Champion (alexa.champion@erols.com)
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 20:29:44 -0100

Wasn't this a topic on FoRK a while back? Rohit was debating with someone
about when and if you must turn off cell phones while in airplanes...

Pig-Headed Cell Phoner Jailed

7:30 a.m. 22.Jul.99.PDT
MANCHESTER, England -- A judge
sentenced a British oil worker on
Wednesday to an unprecedented one
year's jail for endangering an international
flight by refusing to switch off his mobile

Neil Whitehouse, 28, was convicted of
"recklessly and negligently endangering" a
British Airways flight carrying 91
passengers from Madrid to Manchester
after he ignored repeated requests from
the crew to switch off his phone.

"You had no regard for the alarm that
would be caused to passengers by your
stubborn and ignorant behaviour," Judge
Anthony Ensor told Whitehouse at
Manchester crown court.

Ensor said the case was the first time
anyone had been prosecuted in Britain for
using a mobile phone aboard a plane and
there was no precedent to guide him on

The sentence should serve as a warning
that mobile phone use on planes, which is
is illegal in Germany and the United
States, would be treated as seriously as
violence on board aircraft, Ensor said.

Both British Airways and the Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA), which looks after the
interests of all UK carriers, welcomed the
landmark ruling as a step in the right

"We welcome the fact that the court has
recognized the seriousness of the hazard
from mobile phones," BA spokesman Jamie
Bowden said.

Although Whitehouse made no airborne
calls, aviation experts told a three-day
trial that radio waves from the phone
could have sparked an explosion or
affected the Boeing 737's navigational
systems as it flew at 31,000 feet (9,500

"The scientific evidence showed that
there was a real possibility of risk," Ensor

"You were sitting six metres (20 feet)
away from 100 pieces of complex
electrical equipment," he told

Whitehouse, who was sitting over the
aircraft's wing fuel tanks, said he had just
been preparing a text message to send
on his arrival in Manchester. Despite
warnings from the pilot and crew he kept
his phone on.

His lawyer argued that any potential
interference to the plane's systems would
have been only for a few seconds and
could have been corrected.

Judge Ensor called for urgent new
legislation specifically covering mobile
phone use on planes following CAA
evidence given in the trial.

Detective Sergeant Rick Bates of
Manchester Airport police agreed action
was necessary.

"The possible consequences in this case
could have been far more serious than
from on-board violence. Luckily they
weren't but that is no guarantee for the
future," he said.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.