For the first time ever, an Australian court sentences for the offence of attempting to take control of an aircraft
On 31 May 2017, moments after the take-off of a commercial flight from Melbourne to Malaysia, international student Manodh Marks took out two large blue and black lights from the overhead locker and announced that he was holding a bomb which he was going to use to blow the plane up.
Fortunately, in a matter of minutes, the other passengers managed to tackle and tie down Manodh. Also, it was later revealed that his ‘bomb’ was in reality a pair of speakers and a charger.
Manodh’s lawyers told the court that he had made the threat in a drug induced state of psychosis which had led him to genuinely believe that the plane was going to crash and that he had pretended to hijack the plane to return it safely to Melbourne. The defence argument was supported by the report of forensic psychiatrist Andrew Carroll who concluded that Manodh’s psychosis was “severe in degree and had an adverse effect on [his] reasoning, judgement and behaviour”.
Nevertheless, on 7 June 2018, Victorian County Court judge Michael McInerney decided to make an example out of Manodh and sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment. He also ordered that after the end of Manodh’s prison term, he would be deported to his home country Sri-Lanka.
Although Manodh’s ‘bomb’ could never actually have gone off, Judge McInerney found his threat to blow up the plane an extremely traumatic experience for the airline crew and other passengers and also found that it made flying treacherous since it ‘stressed out’ the pilot at a very crucial time known as the sterile period (i.e. the period where the plane needs to climb to an altitude of 10,000 feet) during which the pilot should not be disturbed.
According to Judge McInerney, making threats to use force is a use of force itself. “It’s like using a fake gun in a robbery”, he says. Manodh will have to spend a minimum of 9 years in prison and is not permitted to apply for parole prior to 2027.