It’s illegal for Canadian astronauts to commit a crime while in outer space. (Photo: REUTERS/Tim Peake/ESA/NASA/Handout)
In the Star Wars movies, space crimes were investigated by the fictional Imperial Office of Criminal Investigations and prosecuted at one of the Galactic Courts of Justice.
See: Canada’s weirdest laws: it’s illegal to challenge someone to a duel
In the real world, you will still be in legal trouble if you commit a crime in outer space. In Canada, space travellers would face a criminal court, as it’s illegal for Canadian astronauts and other crew members to commit a crime while in outer space.
The Criminal Code states:
“Despite anything in this Act or any other Act, a Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offence is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada. . .”
So how would this work if a person committed a crime in space, given there are no Canadian space police or a space court? If you, for example, beat up another crew member in space, or you threaten to blow up Mars, you would probably be arrested and charged with assault when you touch down back on earth, at least for the beating. It’s anybody’s guess what criminal code section would cover threatening the destruction of another planet.
See: Canada’s weirdest laws: in P.E.I. you have to honk if you want to pass a car
Canada is far from alone in making space crime a crime on earth. There is actually an international space law called the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to which many countries, including Canada, are participants. The treaty forbids any earthly government from installing weapons of mass destruction, or testing them, in earth orbit, which includes the moon and any other celestial body. Oh and it also forbids a national of any earthly country from committing a space crime.
What if a citizen of earth does commit said crime? In the words of Robert Frost (not the famous poet but the NASA space engineer and instructor), “you get arrested when you return to Earth.”
This may be a problem for people like Cher, who threatened to leave the planet if Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States. Now that it’s a done deal, it would be advisable that she review these space laws on her way to Jupiter!