South Coast father David Degning loses bid to halt deportation over criminal convictions

David Degning is facing deportation from Australia. Photo: Supplied
David Degning is facing deportation from Australia. Photo: Supplied

A middle-aged man 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.

David Degning, 57, migrated to Australia from the United Kingdom when he was seven, and until recently lived at Batemans Bay where he worked as a tradesman.

In January, his permanent visa was cancelled by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton over criminal convictions including drink driving, stealing, and sexual intercourse with a woman who had a cognitive impairment.

Mr Dutton found there was an "unacceptable risk of harm to the Australian community" if Mr Degning remained in the country, and said the "serious nature" of the sexual offence meant the community would expect Mr Degning should not hold a visa.

"Mr Degning and non-citizens who commit such offence[s] should not generally expect to be permitted to remain in Australia," Mr Dutton said in his reasons for the decision.

Mr Degning applied to have the decision reviewed in the Federal Court, saying Mr Dutton had denied him procedural fairness, had made a decision that was "illogical, irrational and legally unreasonable", and had failed to ask Mr Degning's grandchildren about the impact his deportation would have on them.

On Tuesday, Justice Alan Robertson dismissed the application and ordered Mr Degning to pay costs.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Degning's solicitor Stephen Blanks - president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties - said he would look "very carefully" at the possibility of an appeal.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said there was an "unacceptable risk of harm to the Australian community" if David Degning remained in the country. Photo: Justin McManus

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said there was an "unacceptable risk of harm to the Australian community" if David Degning remained in the country. Photo: Justin McManus

He said his client has no family in England and "doesn't know what he will do" if he is sent there.

"He has raised the possibility of ending his life because there is nothing for him there," Mr Blanks said.

"I hope it doesn't come to that. David's sisters were in court to receive the judgment. They were devastated. They know the whole family is devastated by this decision."

Mr Degning has 28 days to appeal before he is deported from Villawood Detention Centre, where he has been detained since January. More than 2500 people have signed a petition calling for him to remain in Australia.

According to court documents, Mr Degning was convicted of sexual intercourse with a person with a cognitive impairment 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, include 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 his client is not a danger to the community and although he has done the "wrong thing", he has already been punished in accordance with the law.

"He's done his time," Mr Blanks said.

"It's time for the community to get behind one of their own and tell the minister it's just not acceptable to the Australian people to break up families in this way."

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