Convicted paedophile priest a step closer to deportation
CONVICTED paedophile priest Finian Egan is a legal step closer to finally being kicked out of Australia.
A full bench of the Federal Court, headed by Chief Justice James Allsop, yesterday ruled in favour of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and sent the case back to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The full bench ordered Egan to pay the Minister's legal costs and said the AAT had "failed to take into account a mandatory relevant consideration" when it overturned Mr Dutton's decision to cancel Egan's Australian citizenship.
Mr Dutton appealed to the Federal Court against the AAT decision, saying the AAT had made three "errors of law" when it overruled him - the full bench yesterday set aside the AAT's ruling not to revoke Egan's citizenship.
The AAT is now likely to hear the case again, taking into account all relevant details, including that as soon as Egan's citizenship was cancelled he was granted an ex-citizen visa which allowed him to remain in, but not re-enter, Australia.
If the AAT again overturns Mr Dutton's decision to cancel Egan's citizenship then Mr Dutton can use the character test section of the Migration Act to deport Egan - using Egan's child rape and other convictions as evidence of him failing the character test.
But even then it is by no means certain Egan will be sent back to Ireland as Egan would have the right to appeal against Mr Dutton's deportation order.
Mr Dutton cancelled Egan's Australian citizenship on May 5, 2016, after the disgraced Catholic priest was found guilty of a string of sexual offences committed against three young girls over three decades of abuse.
Egan, 83, was convicted in 2013 of raping a teenage girl and committing serious sexual assaults against two other girls aged under 17.
He was released from jail in New South Wales in December last year after serving just four years of an eight-year sentence.
Egan appealed to the AAT in the hope of remaining an Australian citizen - and won.
In December last year, AAT deputy president Janine Stevenson overruled Mr Dutton's decision to strip Egan of his Australian citizenship, saying she was not of the opinion that it would be contrary to the public interest for Egan to retain his citizenship.
Justice Stevenson said in her written ruling that one of the main reasons she set aside Mr Dutton's decision, and substituted it with a decision not to revoke Egan's citizenship, was the support given to Egan against being deported by the then Bishop Peter A Comensoli - who is now Melbourne's Catholic Archbishop.
In a submission to the AAT, Bishop Comensoli wrote that Egan "would be very isolated" if he was sent back to Ireland, but if he were to stay in Australia "I can retain some supervisory control over his whereabouts and living circumstances".
One of Egan's victims, Kellie Roche, told the Herald Sun: "Egan should be kicked out so no more Australian children are in danger from him."
The Herald Sun last month revealed Egan has renounced his Irish citizenship in a desperate bid to avoid being kicked out of Australia.
Yesterday's Federal Court full bench decision cast doubt on whether Egan's tactic of getting rid of his Irish citizenship would work.
"The effect of the Minister's original revocation decision on May 5, 2016 was that the Respondent (Egan) ceased to have Australian nationality," yesterday's full bench decision said.
"When, on October 13, 2016, he sought to revoke his Irish citizenship it is likely - I express no concluded view - that this was ineffective as a matter of Irish law since the renunciation would have left him stateless.
"It appears likely that the Irish law of citizenship does not permit the renunciation of citizenship if the citizen in question holds no other nationality."
The Herald Sun discovered Egan's controversial last-ditch tactic of revoking his Irish citizenship after winning a legal battle in the Federal Court for access to restricted documents in the Egan case.
One of those documents is Egan's written submission, which argues that as he is no longer an Irish citizen he would be a stateless person if Mr Dutton succeeds in his ongoing appeal to strip him of his Australian citizenship - making it impossible to deport him as there wouldn't be country to deport him to.
Federal Court Chief Justice Allsop released the documents to the Herald Sun - despite Egan fighting in court to try to keep them suppressed.
Justice Allsop did so after the Herald Sun argued it needed the restricted documents so it could "prepare a fair and accurate report for the Herald Sun on the case".
In his written ruling in favour of the Herald Sun application, Justice Allsop said the principle of open justice was one of the overarching principles in the administration of justice "in this Court and all others".