The Russian lower house has passed the bill making various hooliganism connected with transport – from brawls on trains to blinding aircraft pilots with laser pointers – a criminal offense punishable by up to eight years in prison.
The bill was originally drafted in 2011 by parliamentary majority United Russia party. The initial bill was triggered by a sharp increase in attempts to blind pilots with laser pointers back in 2011. At the time police registered over 50 such incidents in 12 months. One such case prompted an entire Russian region – the Republic of Chechnya – to completely outlaw laser pointers.
Once finally passed into law, the statute would update the existing Russian anti-hooliganism law with paragraphs describing serious violations of public order with demonstration of disrespect to society committed on any type transport. The bill orders the same punishment for these violations as for other acts of hooliganism – from a monetary fine ranging between 300,000 and 500,000 rubles ($5,100-$8,600) to a prison term of up to five years.
In cases when hooligans offer active resistance to representatives of power or if court proves that the crime was premeditated, the maximum prison term is seven years. If the perpetrators use explosives they can be sentenced for eight years.
The new bill also introduces completely new type of crime: “activities driven by hooliganism that threaten safe use of various means of transport.” This includes such behavior as riding outside commuter trains, or ‘train surfing’ (usually on coupling links of railway cars), blinding aircraft pilots with laser pointers, and throwing stones at moving buses. The punishment for such behavior is set as a fine between 150,000 and 300,000 rubles or a prison term of up to two years.
The new bill also enables the creation of “black lists” of citizens whom airlines can refuse to allow on board of aircraft because of their history of brawls or other violent behavior. However, a person’s inclusion on the list must be sanctioned by a court.
The head of the State Duma Committee for Legislative Work, Pavel Krasheninnikov, said that over 1,300 cases of hooliganism were registered on Russian railways in 2015-2016 and the combined damage from them amounted to about 17 million rubles (about $283,000). He also said that lack of concrete laws had caused the situation in which 35 percent of acts of hooliganism on air transport in 2016 remained unpunished.