As Victoria’s African youth gang crime wave has exploded over the past month there has been much discussion about what courses of action are needed from our governments to make the streets of Melbourne safe once again.
It is clear that these criminals don’t fear the courts as many are spared jail time for their violent crimes and are granted bail while their cases are before the courts, even allowed to travel overseas.
The Andrews’ Government has spruiked the bail reforms it introduced last year but they are yet to come into effect. They have not stated their position on mandatory minimum sentences which a human rights sympathetic judiciary could not avoid handing out.
Given that offenders under the age of 18 appear before the Children’s Court who are reluctant to hand out substantial sentences another possible solution is to have these offenders subject to the same laws and punishments as adults. A victim does not feel less traumatised because an offender is underage.
Both of these types of reforms can only be made at the state level. The federal government in recent weeks has stated it wants to do as much in its power to tackle African youth gang crime. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton stated he would have no hesitation in cancelling the visas of African criminals and deporting them once their custodial sentence had been completed.
However, this course of action can also be thwarted by activist judges in our courts. According to a headline in the Age experts say it is relatively easy to do and complaints that the process of deportation can be stalled by the courts as claimed on talkback radio are unfounded. But if you read the fine print of this article a visa cancellation and deportation order can be held up in the courts for months.
For example, if a non-citizen commits a third crime and then the Minister decides to cancel their visa they cannot appeal to the Administrate Appeals Tribunal however they can still challenge the decision in the Federal Court. What the Federal Court can do is rule that the Minister did not follow the law correctly, overturn the visa cancellation however the Minister can issue a new cancellation and deportation order.
The Minister can overrule the decision of the Administrate Appeals Tribunal as well and issue a new visa cancellation. Although in the end the Minister gets his way, this is a time-consuming process to get a foreign criminal out of Australia, not to mention the cost to the government in legal bills and housing the criminal in immigration detention if they have completed their sentence.
The federal government is going through this frustrating process in its efforts to deport dangerous Melbourne Apex gang members. In September last year the AAT overruled the Minister’s decision to cancel man’s visa despite his criminal record including offences such as armed robbery, theft, recklessly causing injury, assaulting police and assaulting an emergency worker. The AAT’s reasons for overruling the Minister were not wanting to separate him from his Melbourne-based family and his mental condition.
This year the federal government has another fight on its hands to deport Isaac Gatkuoth who has just completed a 16-month term for an armed carjacking while high on ice, which the victim later committed suicide. The stolen car was later used by a fellow 15-year-old gang member who killed a Melbourne mother of two in a head on crash. Supporters of Gatkuoth have even launched a petition to allow him to stay claiming his deportation is unfair and that ’he needs support, not racism, vilification and deportation’.
The human rights lobby still believes despite the countless victims left behind by these non-citizen criminals that our courts should take into account the impact of deportation on families, risks of returning a person to the country where they came as a refugee, and whether they were given enough support in the first place.
Most Australians would agree that if we can get them out of the country where they can no longer harm our citizens, that is a reasonable course of action. This should be true even if they are a refugee as if they have chosen to throw away their second chance at life then they should face whatever consequence awaits them back in their country of origin.
It is clear that more laws are needed both at the state and federal level so that our judiciary who seem to be allergic to punishing violent criminals cannot keep frustrating law and order efforts from our authorities. Judicial review has turned to judicial interference in our governments’ doing their jobs. Also, if governments really want to enforce law and order, they are law makers who can limit the jurisdiction of these activist courts.