A Batemans Bay grandfather who has lived in Australia for 50 years has lost a court bid to halt his deportation after his visa was cancelled on character grounds earlier this year.
David Degning, 57, migrated to Australia from England aged seven. In January, the Department of Home Affairs cancelled his permanent visa over criminal convictions, including a serious sexual offence, drink driving and theft.
The department deemed him an "unacceptable risk of harm to the Australian community".
Mr Degning applied to have the decision reviewed in the Federal Court, saying he had been denied procedural fairness, that the department decision was "illogical, irrational and legally unreasonable" and there was little regard for the effect of his deportation on his family.
On Tuesday, Justice Alan Robertson dismissed the application and ordered Mr Degning to pay costs.
Speaking to the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner, solicitor Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said Mr Degning had 28 days to consider an appeal and he could not be forcibly removed until the possible appeal was determined.
Mr Blanks said an appeal would be carefully considered.
“We’re very disappointed with the judgement; David is devastated with the result,” Mr Blanks said.
“He and his family firmly believe (Minister Peter Dutton’s) decision that David represents an unacceptable threat to the Australian community is wrong and that there is no good reason to break up a functioning family and cause hardship.
“He is being further punished for a crime that has been dealt with by the legal system.”
Mr Degning will remain at Villawood Detention Centre, pending possible appeal.
More than 2500 people have signed a petition calling for him to remain in Australia.
According to court documents, Mr Degning was convicted of serious sexual offence in the NSW District Court in 2013 and sentenced to a 17-month suspended prison sentence.
Other convictions, some of which stretch back to the 1970s and 1980s, included stealing, possession of stolen goods, drink driving and assault.
His sentences have included fines, licence disqualification, good behaviour bonds and two terms of imprisonment, of six months and nine months.
Mr Blanks said the decision had devastated the Degning family.
“You can just imagine how someone would feel in a situation where they have a close family that he cares for, and they care for him, and they are being forcibly separated,” he said.
“The intended consequence was to break up the family.
“Minister Dutton knew perfectly well from what David had written to him that David’s deportation would have devastating effects on the family.
“David cares for his 84-year-old father, he’s together with his wife and loved by his children and grandchildren.”
Mr Blanks is calling on changes to legislation to preclude long-term residents from being deported on character grounds.
“People who have been absorbed into the Australian community, whether or not they have taken out citizenship, should not be subjected to deportation,” he said.