Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NOT GUILTY Of Annoying The Airport By Complaining About Aircraft Noise

Press Release From GACC

An elderly lady was recently arrested, at the instigation of Gatwick Airport, for lodging too many complaints with the airport noise complaints line. She was charged with the criminal offence of using a telephone to cause annoyance or anxiety – although she only spoke to an airport answerphone set up to receive noise complaints.

Ann Jones of East Grinstead has been found NOT GUILTY. As Ann told the court: “It was not me annoying the airport: it was their aircraft which were annoying me.”

GACC chairman Brendon Sewill commented: “It is a disgrace that this case was ever brought. It has wasted a great deal of police time, court time and public money, and has added to the suffering of an elderly lady.

Ann Jones had adopted the tactic of ringing the airport answerphone each time she heard a plane. Although unusual, the court decided that this was not illegal. As Ann said: “What is the point of having a complaints service if one can’t use it to complain?”

The court heard that each of her calls was prompted by a specific aircraft (she did not call during periods when aircraft were routed elsewhere) and often drew attention to the fact that she had been woken by aircraft as early as 5.30 am.

“Many of our members are frustrated” Brendon Sewill told the court “by only getting an answerphone, never a real person.” The court also heard that the airport staff were under instructions not to discuss Mrs Jones’ complaints with her nor to make any response, and that Mrs Jones last had a response from the airport in 2006 and was naturally frustrated and angered by the airport’s refusal to respond.

“We hope that Gatwick Airport will now find better ways of handling complaints from people distressed by aircraft noise,” said Brendon Sewill. “Misuse of the legal system to intimidate complainants is unacceptable"