Local News

Batemans Bay man to be deported at risk of "self-harm"

david degning.jpg

There are fears David Degning may self-harm. 

A 57-year old Batemans Bay man who was taken away by Border Force officers in handcuffs, in a dawn raid on his home in January, has been unsuccessful in his bid not to be deported to the United Kingdom.

The man, David Degning has had his permanent resident's visa cancelled by the Federal Government, under section 501 of the Migration Act, on the grounds of not being of good character. He's been imprisoned in Villawood Detention Centre, in Sydney, since January.

Mr Degning, a painter by trade, has lived in Batemans Bay for 30 years and has been in Australia for 50 years. His family were Ten Pound Poms. 

His lawyer Stephen Blanks, who is also the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, has told East Coast Radio there are concerns his client may self-harm following the decision by the Federal Court yesterday.

An appeal to the full Federal Court can be lodged within 21 days, however Mr Blanks has said no decision has been made in relation to an appeal.  

Mr Degning has been charged a number of times over his life for drink-driving, when he was 21 he was convicted of theft and spent three months in jail, there were also drug offences. In 2009, while he was estranged from his wife, he was charged with having intercourse with a 17-year-old girl of limited intelligence, or cognitive impairment, as the charge reads.

Mr Degning, who pleaded guilty to the offence, told police at the time he believed the sex had been consensual and that he hadn't assaulted or hurt the girl, and had thought she was normal although maybe a little slow.  He told police, "She was consensual all the way. I believe I've done nothing wrong, I never assaulted her, I never sexually assaulted her, she was consensual all the way."

The judge found he was unlikely to re-offend and sentenced him to a 17-month suspended sentence and placed him on a good behaviour bond. 

Mr Degning has had the support of the community and his family however the revelation of the sex charge has diminished this support. 

Mr Blanks said an anomaly of the Federal Government's recent policy to increase deportations was its application to people who were convicted before the new policy came into affect. "It's unfair to people who made decisions to plead guilty, before this policy came into effect, in circumstances where they made have had a good defense.

"Interestingly the High Court has found deportation under this policy is not additional punishment to criminal offenders, however David and his family are feeling this decision is very much harsh and additional punishment. David has already been before the courts for his offences and has been dealt with in accordance with the law and the Australian justice system. 

"He has lived in Australia for fifty years, he has nothing and nobody to go to in the United Kingdom. He has limited financial means, he will be split up with his elderly father, his children, wife and grandchildren - who are continuing to support him. 

"It's morally wrong to deport people who have been absorbed into the Australian community even though they haven't taken out Australian citizenship." 

In the Federal Court it was argued that Mr Degning should remain in Australia because the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton's decision was essentially nonsensical, when the sentencing judge for the sex offence had found there was a low risk of Mr Degning reoffending.  

Part of the Federal Government's case against Mr Degning was that he had lied on a incoming passenger card in 2000 and 2004, not revealing he had a criminal record. 

Mr Blanks questioned why Mr Degning and his wife had had to wake up to the indignity and terror of a 5am raid by 16 Border Force officers, who arrested Mr Degning, placing him in handcuffs and transporting him to the to Villawood Detention Centre. 

"Why couldn't they have given him a bridging visa to remain in his home while the case was being heard?  

 "This should be a real concern for everybody in the community," Mr Blanks said. 

East Coast Radio has contacted Minister Peter Dutton's office for comment, but is unable to contact Mr Degning as he is not allowed to speak to the media.