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Plane hijacker receives far more compo than her victims

May 29, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

New Zealand’s only convicted plane hijacker, who stabbed two pilots and later picked up a NZD 25,000 compensation payout for wrongs that occurred while she was in prison for the hijack, has ended up receiving more compensation than her victims.

Asha Ali Abdille, who arrived in New Zealand in 1994 as a Somali refugee, was given a government payout because of problems she suffered while in prison for attempting to hijack an aircraft using knives and stabbing two pilots in the process.

A decision by New Zealand’s Victims’ Special Claims Tribunal revealed that Abdille claimed compensation as a victim, for being grabbed, verbally abused and assaulted inside her cell.

As reported by news outlet, Abdille was injured and became increasingly unwell, but her mental health needs were not met, and when she returned from hospital with both arms in a cast, she felt humiliation and discomfort through not being able to toilet and shower herself properly. Hence the payout.

In February 2008, Abdille took three knives onto an Air New Zealand domestic flight from Blenheim to Christchurch. Eagle Airways Flight 2279 was a commuter flight operated by Air National on behalf of Eagle Airways, a regional carrier division of Air New Zealand.

Claiming to be carrying a bomb in her bag, Abdille tried to force the pilots to fly to Australia. When told the small 19-seater plane did not have enough fuel, she suggested they crash into the sea instead.

Abdille was jailed for nine years for stabbing two pilots during her hijack attempt and she remains New Zealand’s only convicted plane hijacker. Shortly before her release in 2017, Abdille reportedly threatened to hijack another aircraft.

The plane, a British Aerospace Jetstream

It has now emerged that four victims – three passengers and one crew member – made claims against Abdille and were awarded a total of NZD 9500.

One crew member, who was left with post-traumatic stress disorder after suffering a knife wound that led to a partial amputation of his thumb, had claimed NZD 146,341 for emotional harm caused by Abdille’s actions, and exemplary damages. He was awarded just NZD 5000.

The other three victims, on the flight they will never forget, have been awarded just NZD 1500 each (a little over AUD 1400).

The surprising variance between the NZD 25,000 paid out to Abdille, and the comparatively trivial amounts paid to her victims, results from New Zealand’s Accident Compensation law. While Abdille was able to claim for breaches of rights recognised under New Zealand’s Bill of Rights (a law the country passed in 1990), the Privacy Act or the Human Rights Act, her victims were limited to claiming for exemplary damages which punish for outrageous conduct.

The judge said the claimants might think it ironic that their claims were subject to restrictions which did not apply to Abdille’s claims against the NZ Department of Corrections.

“They may be forgiven for thinking that sometimes the law gets in the way of justice,” the judge said.

Many would agree with that observation.

Abdille had a long history of mental health problems and had notched up more than 20 convictions by the time she tried to hijack the plane.

Written by Peter Needham in Auckland

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