Kiwi crims sent home

ROB KIDD
Last updated 05:00 30/03/2014

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When Michael Rai landed in New Zealand in May, he did not know a single person.

He will now spend at least the next four years getting to know only his fellow inmates and the prison guards who will supervise him.

Rai, 32, was born here but as an infant was taken to Australia with his family.

His offending began as a 14-year-old, when he was convicted of armed robbery in 1996. It happened again three years later and in 2003 Rai was jailed for 11 years for an aggravated robbery.

Like hundreds of other Kiwi crims, he was eventually deported to the land of his birth where he felt "lost and abandoned" and continued his offending.

Between 2007 and 2010 Australia cancelled the visas of 130 Kiwis - returning one to New Zealand every eight days - but since then that number has doubled.

The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection provided figures to the Sunday Star-Times showing that from mid-2010 to November last year 290 people had had their visas cancelled and been sent home - nearly two a week.

A New Zealand police spokesman said there was only sporadic information from Australian authorities about the people being deported. He said better information sharing would mean they could keep a closer eye on long-term criminals such as Rai.

"A formalised process would give police timely and consistent access to conviction and deportation data. This would help police to manage any risks posed by New Zealanders with convictions being deported," he said.

The system is unlikely to change before amendments to the Australian Privacy Act, expected to come into effect this year.

Rai had been back in New Zealand for only a few weeks when he and Joshua Ruatekaumatahi Johndalah Baker, 26, and on parole at the time - stole a BMW from an Auckland industrial site and drove the car 50km to Pukekohe, where they pulled off a slapdash bank robbery on September 2 last year.

Driving away at more than 140kmh, they were spotted by police, who chased them through South Auckland. After weaving through traffic on Auckland's busiest motorway, Rai clipped a vehicle in front, sending both cars into a "barrel roll".

An innocent driver, 57-year-old Tauranga man Hugh Foster, broke his neck, both of his legs and while in hospital developed an infection that was life threatening for a few days. He spent two months in hospital and is still recovering from the injuries.

In Papakura District Court this month, Rai's "appalling criminal record" was detailed and he was jailed for six years four months, a minimum of two-thirds of which he will have to serve.

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His lawyer Peter Boylan provided a letter to the court in which his client asked how he was supposed to merge into the community when he had no one to help him.

"Mr Rai is, in my opinion, what he was socialised to be," Boylan said. "He's done time in Australia and they solved the problem by sending him here. That still makes him a problem."

In previous years that problem had been hidden but in January Justice Minister Judith Collins announced possible legislative change and last week said steps had been taken to formalise information sharing with our trans-Tasman neighbours.

Currently, monitoring of deported offenders who returned to the country was sometimes part of police planning but it varied between districts.

The moves to improve the flow of information were triggered by the murder of 13-year-old Christchurch schoolgirl Jade Bayliss who was strangled to death by Jeremy George McLaughlin.

When the 35-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment, it was revealed he had been convicted of manslaughter in Perth in 1995.

FACTBOX

Kiwis' visa cancellations by Australia "on character grounds"

2007-08: 52

2008-09: 47

2009-10: 31

2010-11: 83

2011-12: 100

2012-13: 85

- Sunday Star Times

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