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Penalty for making fake bomb threats to flights becomes focus

(China Daily)

15:47, May 20, 2013

How severe a penalty should a culprit receive for making a fake bomb threat?

This has become an urgent question after two separate incidents last week disrupted 16 domestic flights.

Two suspects have been apprehended and will stand trial. But even if they are found guilty, they will probably receive a prison sentence of less than five years, just as their predecessors did, even though the maximum prison sentence for such a crime is 15 years.

The light punishments handed down to the perpetrators of such thoughtless threats do not match the losses incurred by the airlines, airports and passengers, not to mention the psychological damage they have inflicted on those onboard the aircraft concerned.

Airlines and airports cannot afford to dismiss a threat as fake and they must treat each threat as real. They have to let flights that have been threatened land as quickly as possible and delay the take off of those still on the ground, then the police have to conduct thorough security checks of planes and passengers. The economic losses for an airline can be millions of yuan.

In recent years, some people have made such threats to delay the arrival of a creditor or even just for fun, without giving any thought to the serious consequences their threats will have. At least 10 false bomb threats were reported in China last year.

Although the motivations of such offenders are not as malicious as those of terrorists, the disruption such a threat causes to social order, the psychological damage passengers and crew on the flights suffer and the economic losses incurred may be as severe as a real terrorist threat.

That such bomb hoaxes repeatedly occur is arousing complaints that law enforcement and the Criminal Code are too lenient on the perpetrators and they are failing to act as effective deterrents.

Too light a penalty for such an offence will only reinforce the belief that making fake threats is not a serious crime.

It is high time the law is revised and made as detailed as possible to make sure that such horrible crimes are adequately punished to deter others from such reckless acts of folly.

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