WA man to escape caning for Tiger Airways swearing

A Perth man who was understood to be facing a potential caning in Singapore as punishment for swearing on a Tiger Airways flight from Perth to Singapore is likely to be spared such disciplinary action.

The man, understood to be maritime industry worker Bruce Griffiths, is subject to overseas laws after being arrested in Singapore, where the plane landed on January 4.

On Wednesday afternoon, a spokeswoman from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Singaporean police had advised the West Australian man would not be caned.

Tiger Airways...confirmed there was an incident. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

"Police have advised that the man is not facing charges which are punishable by caning," the spokeswoman said.

"Officials from the Australian High Commission in Singapore are providing consular assistance to a 47-year-old man from WA who was arrested in Singapore on 4 January 2013 by Airport Police."

Due to privacy constraints meant the department could not release the man's name.

Aviation lawyer Pat Noonan said the man was apprehended due to an "aviation tri-factor"– in that the airline carrier was foreign, the plane was within international airspace and his destination was outside of Australia.

Mr Noonan had doubted the man would face a caning anyway, saying such a move would be "catastrophic" for Tiger's business.

Mr said the man was "very unlucky" to have been apprehended on January 3, for allegedly swearing in a verbal argument, while on the overnight flight to Singapore.

"What happened in this particular instance is that all three factors came into play," Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan said that the law could be blurry when dealing with international flights and airspace, however there were certain conventions followed.

"The country of carrier applies their own laws while in international airspace. However if there is an incident in Australia, then Australian laws will apply to passengers that are off-loaded in Australia," he said.

"You've got to be very, very careful. If the incident does occur in international skies on a foreign carrier, that country's laws do apply."

Incidents such as this would make travellers think twice about using foreign airlines, Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan said that Singapore was "sensitive to the laws of other countries" and believed it would take Australian laws into consideration when handing down a sentence.

"While they see it as a fairly serious offence, I doubt they would use the cane in this circumstance," he said.

He said any serious charge, above a fine "would be catastrophic for Tiger Airways" as it would likely deter Australians from using the airline in future.

Tiger Airways has confirmed there was an incident on board the flight but could not comment further because the incident was under police investigation.

"Tiger Airways has a zero tolerance policy towards inappropriate behaviour on board our aircraft. Safety and security of staff and passengers underpins the operation at all times and is something we will not compromise," a spokeswoman said.

Tiger has also launched its own investigation into the incident.

'Common practice'

Amnesty International spokesman Edwyn Shiell said the potential level of punishment for the alleged offence was outrageous.

"Judicial caning is quite a common practice in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and routinely is carried out against asylum seekers, migrant workers and women in particular," Mr Shiell said.

"We regard this punishment as cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, and Singapore's use of this punishment is contrary to the global ban on torture.

"We consider it a form of torture."

Mr Shiell said the image of bloodied and battered recipients of the cane in recent years should not be underestimated.

Footage that had come out of Malaysia in recent years was "gruelling", Mr Shiell said.

"It is quite gruesome, and certainly a very serious punishment."

Recent cases of foreigners being caned in Singapore include Swiss national Oliver Fricker, who was sentenced to five months' jail and three strokes of the cane in 2010, after pleading guilty to cutting through a Changi train depot fence with an accomplice and spray painting two metro train carriages.

In the same year, former Florida State University football star Kamari Charlton was sentenced to the cane after he overstayed his tourist visa in Singapore and was charged with a phone scam against an Australian man.

American Michael Fay, 18, was sentenced to four cane strokes in 1994 for theft and vandalism.

The caning was carried out despite pleas for leniency from President Bill Clinton and US Embassy officials.

With Aleisha Orr and AAP