Ram-raid Kiwi ‘501’ wins bid to stay in Australia

A New Zealander who raided a Sydney car dealership on a ‘little crime spree’ while psychotic and drug addicted has successfully had his deportation from Australia reversed.

Trae Tupe Mehana Whiu, 27, was at risk of deportation under Section 501 of Australia’s Migration Act – the law under which thousands of New Zealanders were returned to their home countries, which spoiled relations between the two nations.

But in a close decision, Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal decided to give Whiu a ‘second chance’.

“We are a nation built on second chances,” said the court ruling revoking the cancellation of his visa to live and work in Australia.

More than 2,500 New Zealanders have been deported under Section 501 since the start of 2015, although some of them have lived in Australia for many years with few ties to their home country.

Whiu moved to Australia to live in 2013, aged 18. There are two sons from two Australian mothers.

Both women took the Australian equivalent of protective orders against him.

He also committed offenses in Queensland, the most serious of which was an assault resulting in bodily harm after a group of “Kiwi boys” got into a fight at a bar in Surfers Paradise.

While living on the Gold Coast, Whiu became a heavy drinker and regular cannabis user, the court heard.

He moved to Canberra around 2019, to take advantage of a boom in the construction industry, and there he began using “ice”, or crystal meth, which he used as a incentive to be able to work more hours.

At around 4.30am on December 18, 2020, Whiu drove a stolen Volkswagen Amarok into the front doors of a car showroom in Waitara, Sydney’s north.

He did not attempt to steal any vehicles or money from the dealership, but took a fanny pack from behind a counter.

He then drove off and attempted to break into a private garage using bolt cutters.

He had a meal prepared on the doorstep of a nearby apartment, then drove to a hotel a short distance away and fell asleep in the kitchen. Whiu was found by police still carrying the fanny pack.

Court records say his “little criminal spree” was “without any logical purpose”, with no evidence of premeditation.

His attorney said he had never done this before.

Court records indicate that Whiu was in a drug-induced psychotic or delusional state when he committed the crimes and had not slept for six days.

Whiu was convicted of taking a vehicle without consent, breaking and entering, entering premises without lawful excuse, and shoplifting.

He was sentenced last May to 15 months in prison. The jail sentence triggered the 501 deportation action.

Under Section 501, an Australian government minister or official can cancel a person’s visa if they fail a “character test”, and a prison sentence of more than 12 months is one of the testing criteria.

Whiu appealed to the Australian government in June 2021 to have the cancellation of his visa revoked, but was unsuccessful.

He then appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which heard his case last month. Whiu represented himself at the hearing.

The court ruled that Whiu had failed the character test “by definition”, due to his prison sentence, but other factors weighed in his favour.

He had been in almost constant employment and “there is no suggestion that he acquired money by other means”, according to the court ruling.

As to the seriousness of Whiu’s offence, the court “places it quite at the bottom of the scale and takes solace in the fact that this also appears to have been the opinion of the courts”.

The court received a letter of support from the mother of one of Whiu’s former partners.

She said that after Whiu and her daughter’s relationship began to crumble, “Trae took the wrong path that led him to where he is now.”

“I believe Trae will change for the good as he is a very kind, hardworking family member who has great respect for his elders,” the woman, identified only as LN, wrote.

“My grandson will grow up knowing who his father is because Trae will be a part of his life forever…He has been a very good father, treating his son as (the) number one priority in his life.”

Despite domestic violence orders in place for his two former partners, the court said he was never convicted of any domestic violence offences.

The court revoked Whiu’s visa cancellation after weighing what it called “an extremely fine balance of considerations”.

“There is no doubt that (Whiu) has committed a number of offences,” the ruling reads.

“But the court does not find his overall record to be so egregious that he lost any second chance to pull himself together, resolve his substance abuse issues and restore a productive life in the community. Australian.”

Attempts to reach Whiu for comment through a former New South Wales employer were unsuccessful.

The employer said Whiu was released last week after 13 months in detention.

– by Ric Stevens, Open Justice

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