Legal

Federal Court decision: Irish ex-bikie to be deported

The Federal Court has thrown out an Irish ex-bikie’s appeal to avoid deportation.

Dublin-born Paul Pennie, who has lived in Australia for 40 years, said his representations in favour of having his visa reinstated had not been given “proper, genuine and realistic” consideration by the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton in his first Court hearing.

These included fears he would experience homelessness, unemployment, and lack of medical care for his mental health and heart issues if returned to Ireland.

Appeal judges Justice Davies, Derrington and Colvin disagreed, declaring, “no error is discernible in the primary judge’s reasons.”

“The minister accepted that he may experience significant difficulties…but was of the view that Mr Pennie would have a level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing comparable to that which is available in Australia.”

The appeal judges agreed with the original judgement not to reinstate Mr Pennie’s visa.

The appeal judges agreed with the original judgement not to reinstate Mr Pennie’s visa.

Mr Pennie filed submissions stating that the views expressed by the Minister were incorrect, given that he would not be eligible for job seekers allowance or state pension in Ireland as he has lived in Australia since childhood, however the appeal judges found the minister had “no legal duty” to ensure the 46-year-old would be entitled to welfare.

Earlier Story: ‘It will destroy us’, family speaks out about son’s imminent deportation

The judges said the minister’s concerns that the Irish-Australian was at risk of engaging in further criminal conduct were reasonable, as although Mr Pennie said he had severed ties with the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, those involved with the outlaw group were still pressuring him to reoffend.

“In those circumstances, it was open to the minister to reason that separation from the Club was ongoing…not completed.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said ‘non-citizens’ who engage in criminal activity or other serious conduct of concern such as involvement in outlaw motorcycle gangs “can expect to have their visas considered for cancellation”.

Mr Pennie was sentenced to prison in 2015 for possession of methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply, leading to the cancellation of his visa in 2016.

Following his appeal dismissal Mr Pennie wrote on Facebook from a Perth detention centre that the “putrid system” was destroying families’ lives.

The Pennie family said Paul (left) struggled to cope after the sudden death of his brother Keith (right).

The Pennie family said Paul (left) struggled to cope after the sudden death of his brother Keith (right).

His father Gerry Pennie said the decision had left Paul and the family devastated: “He just can’t get himself together, he couldn’t even talk to me...”

In a letter to Minister Dutton, Gerry Pennie wrote, “We have already been forced to endure…burying our youngest son Keith.

“Should you cancel Paul’s visa, we would again be put through the unbearable grief of losing yet another one of our children.”

Mr Pennie said his son had contributed to society through hard work since his teens, holding jobs as a hospital attendant and security guard, and was prepared to atone for his wrongdoing.

Paul Pennie will leave behind his elderly parents, sisters, and nieces and nephews when he leaves Australia in late November.

‘It will destroy us’, family speaks out about son’s imminent deportation

The Irish family of a former Bandidos bikie is despairing at their son’s imminent deportation from Australia under a controversial policy.

Paul Pennie, 46, is awaiting a Federal Court appeal hearing to determine if he will be sent back to a country he barely knows after being sentenced to prison on charges including possession of methylamphetamine with intent to supply.

The Pennie family migrated to Australia in 1980 when Paul was only six. His father Gerry is worried his son’s deportation will have a devastating effect on the close-knit family.

“It would destroy us,” he said.

“He doesn’t know anyone in Ireland.”

Earlier Story: Irish-born ex-bikie faces deportation under controversial policy

Mr Pennie said his son’s battles, which ultimately led to his visa being cancelled in 2016, stemmed from the sudden death of his younger brother and a workplace injury that left him unable to continue his job as a security guard.

The Australian government deported more than 1,000 people between 2016 and 2018 on character grounds, a policy recently criticised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has cancelled thousands of visas on ‘character’ grounds.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has cancelled thousands of visas on ‘character’ grounds.

The issue was having a “corrosive” impact on Australia’s relationship” with New Zealand, Ms Ardern said. She argued that deportations should not be enforced after an individual has lived in a country for 10 years.

Gerry Pennie emphasised that his son had never been charged with or engaged in violent crime, and had severed ties with the Bandidos bikie club.

“I know him as my son. He has never laid a hand on anybody. Never,” Mr Pennie said.

His son was allegedly nearly bashed to death by fellow bikie-connected inmates in prison after he refused to participate in a stabbing, his father said.

The Irish-Australian suffers from both mental health issues and heart disease, and is concerned about his ability to access and afford treatment should he be deported.

During Mr Pennie’s 2018 Federal Court hearing, the then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Petter Dutton, said he accepted that Mr Pennie’s deportation would potentially exacerbate his psychological conditions “given his history of depression and suicidal ideation”, but that he would likely be able to access health support in Ireland as a habitual resident.

The Pennie family. (From left) Paul, who is facing deportation, his mum Evelyn Pennie, sister Clare Flint, dad Gerry, sister Karen Derrick and brother Keith.

The Pennie family. (From left) Paul, who is facing deportation, his mum Evelyn Pennie, sister Clare Flint, dad Gerry, sister Karen Derrick and brother Keith.

It is uncertain if Mr Pennie would satisfy the conditions necessary to be eligible for social assistance, because factors considered by Ireland’s Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection include the applicant’s intention to live in Ireland for the foreseeable future.

Mr Pennie has no desire to live in Ireland, where he has no ties, and his family is concerned he would not be able to independently establish a new life or find accommodation having been either incarcerated or in a detention centre since 2015.

Paul Pennie has guaranteed work with a friend’s lawn-mowing business if he is allowed to stay in Australia, the family said.

His sister Clare Flint accepted some Australians would believe deportation was necessary as part of a tough stance on crime, but she emphasised that other foreign criminals had avoided expulsion after being sentenced for more serious, violent crimes.

Early this year it was revealed that hundreds of immigrants who had their visas cancelled after committing crimes in Australia have been spared deportation, including a drug trafficker who had spent more than 10 years in prison.

“Put your feet in our shoes,” his sister says. “Everyone’s made mistakes, but Paul’s paying the ultimate price in losing his family.”

Would-be Irish citizens cannot leave the country, court rules

Legal experts have described as ‘absurd’ a High Court ruling which says that a person applying for Irish citizenship must not leave the country for an entire year before lodging their application.

The ruling came during a case in which an Australian man, Roderick Jones, challenged the Justice Minister’s refusal to grant his application to become a naturalised Irish citizen.

During the one year period before the date of the application, Mr Jones, who works in the university sector in Dublin, was out of Ireland for 100 days, 97 of them for holidays, RTE reported.

In order to apply for Irish citizenship, a judge has ruled that applicants must not leave the country for twelve months beforehand.

In order to apply for Irish citizenship, a judge has ruled that applicants must not leave the country for twelve months beforehand.

In previous cases, the Minister for Justice had allowed applicants to spend time out of the country for holidays and other reasons but Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled that this discretionary practice was not permitted by law.

The judge said that "might seem unfair" in a world where many people travel abroad for work and take foreign breaks more than once a year, but he said, that is what the relevant law requires.

He said the cure "for any such unfairness" lay in the gift of the legislature.

Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, those wishing to ‘naturalise’ as Irish citizens have to be legally resident in the State for at least five years out of the last nine (or three out of the last five if married to an Irish citizen).

This includes one year of “continuous residence” in the 12 months up to the date of application.

The judge said the word "continuous" bore its ordinary meaning and was defined as "unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time".

Justice Max Barrett has conceded that his judgement ‘may seem unfair’.

Justice Max Barrett has conceded that his judgement ‘may seem unfair’.

The judge said the law did not allow the Minister any discretion in relation to this requirement. 

He said the minister had manifested "very real humanity" in trying to nuance the very clear wording of the legislation by applying a discretionary absence period to allow for the realities of modern life, but he had gone beyond what was legally permissible.

The judge said there was no evidence before him as to why the Oireachtas had imposed this condition in the 1956 Act.

He said it may have been to ensure potential citizens enjoyed a concrete connection with the State or were attuned to the way of life in Ireland or some other reason. 

The cure for any resulting unfairness was not to be found in the courts he said, but lay in the gift of the legislature.

Over 8,000 people were granted Irish citizenship in 2017 alone, according to European Union data.

According to The Journal.ie, Ireland’s Department of Justice said they were examining the ruling and “will take any necessary action in consultation with the Attorney General”.

The plantiff Roderick Jones has been contacted for comment.