Court finds planespotter guilty

2011-08-06 07:54

Johannesburg - The Boksburg Magistrate's Court on Friday found planespotter Julian Swift guilty of illegally possessing a radio receiver and using it to listen to air traffic communications, the editor of the SA Flyer magazine said.

"He was found guilty on the two charges...and ordered to pay R5 000 or spend 10 months in jail," Guy Leitch said.

Swift, 52, was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in February last year after officials saw him taking photos of landing planes.

He was found with a radio receiver that cannot transmit but is still illegal without a radio license under the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA requires an operator of a receiver to qualify as a radio amateur.

Leitch said air traffic communications were easily accessible via internet live-streaming or at the High Flyers Bar at the end of OR Tambo's airstrip.

Swift, therefore, was accessing information which was freely available and should never have been charged.

Planespotting is the observation and logging of an aircraft's registration numbers as a hobby. In many countries, planespotters co-operate with police in reporting anything suspicious as a measure to target terrorism.

  • ian - 2011-08-06 08:18

    bwaaa ha ha ha, these tossers know f all, anyone can listen to air traffic control over the internet and taking pictures, so what, did the guy ask for flying lessons but dont worry about landing, sheeshh morons

      Yoni - 2011-08-06 09:55

      I'm sure there is such legislation, just as there are legislation forbidding taxi's from driving in the yellow lane, not having legal driving licences, driving at night with only one headlight etc. This is just an example of selective prosecution. What's next, someone being charged for photographing the Prez' convoy?

      Komasa - 2011-08-06 18:30

      Maybe we need to look at it from a 911 perspective.

      Balfel - 2011-08-06 22:37

      Komasa, no dude, we don't.

  • Beam me up - 2011-08-06 08:19

    Judges seem to want to take the easy cases and rapists get off with a R500 fine? WTF

      Risen Ape - 2011-08-06 08:30

      "The law is an ass" - Charles Dickens

      Bill - 2011-08-06 08:31

      Precisely...! Bunch of f*king retards...

      michael jennings - 2011-08-06 08:42

      just curious, please can you provide me with the information about the rapist who received the R 500,00 fine? I would like to try and expose that piece of injustice!

  • ian - 2011-08-06 08:21

    Planespotting is the observation and logging of an aircraft's registration numbers as a hobby. In many countries, planespotters co-operate with police in reporting anything suspicious as a measure to target terrorism. cant have that here, you might alert the criminals, only in africa

      JCTF - 2011-08-06 08:40

      I can't make sense of any part of your post.

      JCTF - 2011-08-06 08:41

      Planespotters simply... spot planes. Or take photos. Some of them like to record the aircraft registration to go with their photos. I've never heard of this thing you speak of. And I don't see how any such activity can be dangerous in any way. No more so than car spotting.

      Umfubi - 2011-08-06 09:43

      What's the matter, JCTF - have a bad night? What part don't you understand? It's part of the article, anyway. Go have a nice strong cup of coffee, maybe you'll wake up properly.

      Ogre - 2011-08-06 11:55

      JCTF, SA education system strikes again.

  • spikytiger2001 - 2011-08-06 08:37

    I hate to know what would have happened if he intercepted President Zuma's plane's communications O_o...

      To the point - 2011-08-06 09:55

      That's fine, as long as he does'nt pour beer over it.

      Anonymus - 2011-08-06 11:09

      it would of been an attack on his life :P

  • JCTF - 2011-08-06 08:38

    This whole court case is a complete joke. All over the world, planespotters sit next to runways listening to air traffic on their radios. It is completely harmless. This court case is just another example of the joke that is our government. Until recently you could listen to Durban ATC on the internet! You can still listen to hundreds of control towers all over the world, live on the internet. If you can't transmit, what can POSSIBLY go wrong?

      Ogre - 2011-08-06 12:02

      Umfubi, just a pity that the implimentation of the law is just so selective in that the crimes that are ripping the country appart are ignored. It's funny that way.

      Umfubi - 2011-08-06 16:38

      @Ogre: although some sub-moronic imbecile appears to have 'reported' my comment so that it's been deleted, let me tell you anyway that by far the greatest problem with the crimes that are 'ripping the country appart' (sic) is that they don't get to court in the first place. Obviously there are incompetent magistrates but in general our judiciary does a fine job. @sub-moronic imbecile: here's another one for you to report... have fun!

  • Marius Rossouw - 2011-08-06 08:48

    The magistrate should pay a fine for studying law. What a joke.

      Blougroen - 2011-08-06 08:56

      And the concept of "reasonable" is clearly not part of our law . . . .

  • DieterC - 2011-08-06 08:58

    Clearly the cops had to win on a technicality to justify their bully actions. A judge who makes a stupid decision like this needs to be looked at. Now I must worry about my kid collecting stamps or fishing in our local pond without a permit (heaven forbid). People with an active interest in aviation are a cut above the rest. As I understand the guy was out of work at the time so this would be a big knock for him. we should bail him out as decent people.

  • DLW - 2011-08-06 09:09

    I lived 4 houses from OR Tambo airport and there were always people parked in the veld behind our house taking pictures of planes taking off and landing listening on 'handhelds'; taking copious notes and scribbling in notebooks as well as taking photographs....and I can tell you not all of them were South Africans; are they terrorists?; foreign spies?..come on'Officials' why don't you do something about the theft of private property from incoming and outgoing luggage and the numerous other security problems at O.R. Tambo get your priority 'ducks in a row' before arresting and fining a person with an arbitrary inoffensive hobby. Not to detract from the subject at hand...Vegetarian....what is useful to you may not be useful to someone else....why not show a bit of tolerance? may enjoy the experience!

  • Agent Bastad - 2011-08-06 09:46

    Yes, it's high time we got tough on these sadistic criminals.

      middelvinger - 2011-08-06 10:20

      The Police???

      Anonymus - 2011-08-06 11:09

      the ANC?

  • MnrFotograaf - 2011-08-06 10:17

    What a load of crap? Typically the courts nailed someone who was busy with an onnocent past time and offered no threat. really, this is what makes me hate socalled justice.

      Anonymus - 2011-08-06 11:11

      Its cheaper to murder or rape than being caught with am unlicensed radio for plane spotting.

  • johnwilliam.roberts - 2011-08-06 10:36

    Typical wogs got nothing else better to do ! He was doing no harm people do this all over the world .then they must arrest pig spotter ,and all the crime watch companies also the morons .

      Yoni - 2011-08-06 10:42

      Surely the spotter deserves nothing more than a "spot" fine?

  • braveinternetguy - 2011-08-06 11:22

    I, too, am rolling my eyes and sighing...why this poor chap wasn't just warned, is beyond me. He clearly poses no threat to anyone - I would know, as I too sneak aroud all sorts of funny places to take pictures of those magnificent flying machines. However, the law does exist (together with its prescribed punishment), Julian did break that law, he was caught, so he is now R5000 poorer and (probably) has a criminal record. Ironically, to have obtained his radio license, it would have cost him a lot less.

  • GSXA - 2011-08-06 11:25

    Does anyone have the web link for the live streaming of SA ATC radio traffic?

      NotnaJ - 2011-08-06 11:52

      GSXA - 2011-08-06 12:00


  • Windlass - 2011-08-06 11:31

    Officials and courts should think about finding more important things to do… Like we don’t have more serious problems to deal with?

  • phlyerphil - 2011-08-06 15:54

    so lets get this right - the guys has been found guilty on a very wooley technicality, and a non-offense ! yet hes got a R500 fine or 10 months in pokey? Hells teeth thats a bit severe! And what on earth is the point of having a RadOps licence for a pure receiver? thats a non-offense if ever there was one - its like needing a licence for your car radio. Imagine what you'd get if you actually committed a crime like carjacking, murder.... Agree with many of the posts on this forum. The judge who passed this sentance needs sacking. Any other judge in most other countries in the world would have either thrown it out or fined him a rand or something suitable. Its pathetic. If it wasnt so stupidly serious for mr swift it really would be a joke. I suggest letters of protest to the SA embassy....

  • phlyerphil - 2011-08-06 16:19

    bloody google... what my post should have said is: so the guys been found guilty on a pointless technicality and a non-offence (needing a licence for a receiver) and has been handed a 5000R fine or 10 months in pokey - christ what sentances are handed out over there for actual crimes !!??? I agree with several of the posts on here that the judge wants a serious looking at - OK he may have inadvertantly broken the law, but i think the sentance is waaaaaaaaaaaaay over the top and unreasonable. In fact if it wasnt so serious it would be laughably pathetic.

  • Mil Air Comms - 2011-08-06 16:26

    Oh my, I sure hope the South African gov't doesn't come to my house. I would hate to see what my fine would be with the radios I have and what I listen too:

      JacobR - 2011-08-06 16:53

      ...but you have a ham license, plus you live in a civilised country that allows you to pursue your hobby despite having experienced 9/11...

  • Komasa - 2011-08-06 18:28

    Should try train spotting.

      KanaMay - 2011-08-07 01:41

      What trains are worth watching in South Africa ? The spotter would be more likely to see the rioters ruin the station because their train is late. Although now I think of it, what he records might be quite beneficial for crime-spotting and police hunts.

  • FFS - 2011-08-06 19:20

    Another hard core criminal punished according to the law. I'll bet South Africans are sleeping better tonight knowing that the rule of law still applies in SA. This should serve as a warning to those who murder and rape at will.

      Dmitri - 2011-08-06 19:36

      If you go to, more than 90% of those photos are by plane spotters. @Komasa - brilliant post :)

  • lassie95 - 2011-08-06 20:09

    ANC stage fright. They still see a white coup plotter behind every incident.

  • twinkles - 2011-08-06 20:17

    I cant believe it - this is just as bad as locking that lady up for having a vicious sausage dog - will the SAP please go and do their jobs as they are paid to do!!

  • Jim Sher - 2011-08-08 09:53

    This is just damned pathetic. I have a radio license, because I'm a pilot and I need to be able to transmit. You know what else? I've an airband receiver and have lent it to friends on the ground so that I can report to them. I had this receiver before I had my license. Should I turn myself in for a R5k fine / 10 month sentence? Additionally, you don't need a license to buy one (like you do for a TV) - so who's at fault? the system or the buyer? This is simply a case of police/justice system saving face for their ignorance. They incorrectly arrested someone. And to prevent a counter-suit then proceeded to court. The judge, being a d00s, followed the law blindly without using any common sense. In fact, I'd go as far to say that his judgement, while being lawful, is unconstitutional, and taking it to a higher court would be justified. (although it would probably be prohibitively expensive) However, the innocent will always be targeted in this country, as we are soft targets. "Look he's using technology to listen to aircraft! Aircraft were used in terrorism in the US. OMG! He must be a terrorist!" ARREST HIM! "Look he's photographing a policeman! He's going to make the police look bad. OMG! He must be a traitor to the country!" ARREST HIM! I'm not saying that there aren't good policemen and judges in SA. What I'm saying is that the ones involved in this case aren't a part of that group.

  • Oscar - 2011-08-08 15:59

    Man, we've come to this because of the F*#ken terrorists. Cant even enjoy a simple pass time of spotting aircrafts and listening to the communications.

  • DEVILS SON - 2011-08-08 16:08

    lmao, if its good enough for americans to say im gonna say it.......its cos he is a minority hey?

  • StoneAngel - 2011-08-08 16:21

    Love to know why all the 'vultures' have not been caught - they all run scanners and listen to the police frequencies to find out where the accidents are. Maybe the police are too busy catching people listening to the aircraft passing by.

  • SA1 - 2011-08-13 00:54

    Stupid pathetic jungle justice system,getting worse by the week

  • jakesdownunder - 2011-08-13 04:43

    Pathetic. Give me a R10 FM receiver and within 15 minutes flat I will do a few changes with a screwdriver and a tweezer and you can listen to all aircraft transmission. We did it as a hobby as kids for many years and still are! Idiots.

  • jakesdownunder - 2011-08-13 04:45

    Idiots. How pathetic. Give me a R10 FM radio receiver and within 15 minutes flat I will do a few changes with a screwdriver and tweezers and you can receivea all aircraft transmissions. We used to do this as kids and even listened to the air force Mirage transmissions over Pretoria.

  • Daniel - 2011-08-13 11:49

    I have been a planespotter from the Atlanta, Ga. area for 20 years. Several times myself and Truck have been searched. And was told my name would go to the FBI. The local ARB Tower see's someone with a Camera, up to a mile from base even they call the Police to have you run off. I am with the F4 Phantom 2 Society and in the last 5 years have been on 3 active Air Force Bases and on Active aircraft ramps and been checked out my Homeland Security and the Air Force, several times. There seems to be two types of people here in the USofA, the ones who could care less about what going on and the one's who see anyone with a Camera and a Scanner and they think you are up to no good or going to blow something up. Sorry but that's my two cents worth.

  • rogerwadeperry - 2012-08-31 23:29

    Bullsh -it,Dictators! government!!!

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