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Safety Investigation / Judicial Investigation

Safety investigation and judicial investigation

The BEA’s main mission is to contribute to the improvement of aviation safety by means of the publication of reports and recommendations issued following investigations and studies on air accidents and incidents.

In the case of an accident with fatal consequences and involving French authorities, two investigations are undertaken in parallel: the judicial investigation is directed by a prosecutor or undertaken under his control, the Safety Investigation is undertaken by the BEA.

These two investigations have different objectives:


- the judicial investigation is aimed at determining fault that may result in liability being established and thus on convictions.

- The BEA investigation is aimed at improving aviation safety for the benefit of passengers and crews. Contrary to the judicial investigation, it does not presuppose the existence of a misdemeanour or a crime.

The BEA investigation follows international rules, coming from ICAO, translated into the French judicial system in the form of laws and decrees. The judicial investigation depends on national law and is undertaken under very varying conditions from one country to another. Thus, in some countries, the judicial investigation only starts after the end of the safety investigation.

Although in France these investigations are independent of each other, the law has determined the relationship between them. Thus, for example, flight recorders are placed under seal by the judicial authorities and handed to the BEA to be read out under its control. Further, regular contacts are established between the BEA and the authorities in charge of judicial investigations.

Since 2014, advance agreements have been signed or amended with the Ministries of Justice and of the Interior, in accordance with the requirements of the European Regulation, in order to ensure coordination between the judicial investigation and the Safety Investigation, which must be able to access the same data and the same evidence without restriction, while remaining independent and distinct from each other.