A Melbourne university student who protested against the deportation of an asylum seeker on an interstate flight has been found guilty of interfering with an airline crew member.
Jasmine Pilbrow, 22, was found guilty of interfering with a crew member of an aircraft after disputing the charge at the Broadmeadows magistrates court on Friday.
Representing herself, Pilbrow said it was not a crime to stand up for a man whose life was at risk.
Pilbrow does not dispute she refused to sit down during a Melbourne to Darwin flight unless a Tamil man, who was being deported to Sri Lanka, was allowed to leave the Qantas plane on 2 February 2015.
After she told cabin crew she would not sit down, Australian federal police agents boarded the flight and the 25-year-old Tamil detainee was removed. Pilbrow then left the plane. She was not charged over the incident until February this year.
The student told the court her actions were in the context of what she believed was a sudden or extraordinary emergency – the Tamil asylum seeker’s deportation and possible persecution in Sri Lanka.
“My actions were reasonable because the safety of another person’s life was at stake,” she said. “My actions were reasonable and it was effective because my peaceful stance resulted in this man being taken off the plane.”
Pilbrow referred to a provision of the criminal code which states a person is not criminally responsible for an offence if it was carried out “in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency”.
Magistrate Meaghan Keogh said she did not accept Pilbrow’s defence and found commonwealth prosecutors had proved the charge against the student.
Keogh said because a person had strong personal beliefs it did not mean they weren’t criminally liable for an offence.