Australia Shuts Door On A Life Of Crime

Australia shuts door on a life of crime

Kate McClymont and Alex Tibbitts
Sydney Morning Herald
December 22, 2007

DESCRIBED as a “one-woman crime wave”, a 29-year-old who has lived in Australia since the age of one is set to be deported to New Zealand because of her extensive criminal history.

But the move to deport Patricia Carol Toia has annoyed the New Zealand Government.

Toia has not only been sentenced to jail terms 30 times for crimes that include robbery, assault and trafficking heroin, but while in jail she committed another 56 offences, such as assault, intimidation and damaging and destroying property.

A deputy president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Julian Block, said the description of Toia “as a 'one-woman crime wave' is by no means inapt”.

Yesterday Toia expressed regret about what she had done.

“I feel ashamed about people knowing about my record,” she told the Herald. “I'm disgusted by the way I brought myself up. I've made a lot of mistakes. I know I have to be punished but Australia is my home.”

On Thursday Mr Block upheld a 2004 decision to have Toia returned to her country of birth.

While noting that she had spent nearly all her life in Australia, Mr Block said: “She is a threat to the Australian community, and Australia deserves protection against her, given that the risk of recidivism is, as must be obvious, very substantial indeed.”

Since the original decision to deport her, Toia has been on another rampage, which has led to jail for a further 16 months for offences that include shoplifting, nine counts of possessing prohibited drugs, and having stolen goods in custody.

And, despite never having held a driver's licence, this year she was banned from holding one for another 53 years. Police told the court that, because of her “appalling traffic record, displaying a blatant disregard for traffic laws and any penalty imposed by a court”, she had been disqualified until 2060.

News of the tribunal's decision has received a cool reception across the Tasman. New Zealand's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, was disappointed, a spokesman said.

“It is only a technicality that stops her from being an Australian in the full sense of the word,” the spokesman said.

“She's grown up in Australia; she's lived in Australia a long time. And for want of having taken out citizenship she now finds herself being sent back to a country which is really not in any sense her home.”

In 2004 Toia submitted to the Department of Immigration that her visa should not be cancelled because Australia was her home and she did not know anywhere except Sydney. She went on to say that she did not want to be deported because she had changed her life “a bit more than I ever have” and “stopped the drugs and crime”.

Toia – who was released from jail in October, only to be taken to Villawood detention centre – recently told the tribunal that, while she did have relatives in New Zealand, she only knew their first names and had never met them, “nor have I ever been in contact with them”.

In his decision Mr Block noted that Toia did not wish to return to New Zealand because she had nothing there, “but it must also be noted that there does not seem to be anything for her in Australia. She appears to be estranged from all of the surviving members of her family.”

Toia, who is now taking methadone in an effort to overcome drug addiction, said yesterday she wanted to straighten out her life.

“I'm not going to lose my freedom over something stupid,” she said. “It's about time I stop doing silly things. I want to do the right thing and abide by the law. I've got better things to do than crime. I have a life to lead.

“My partner and his family are the only people I have in my life now. I feel I've got a second chance in life. I want to get married and have two beautiful children. I never want my kids to do the things I was doing, to be without a mother or friend, like I did.”

Hamish McClelland, her partner, said deportation would not help Toia achieve stability.

“It seems unfair,” he said. “It doesn't seem to serve her purpose or anyone's. We've started on methadone and she hasn't been in trouble for a while. It would disrupt the good progress she's made.”

Toia feared she would become destitute if deported to New Zealand.

“I don't think I could survive,” she said. “I wouldn't know what to do. I don't even have a friend to say: 'Can I have a place for the night?' Immigration will just leave me at the airport. At least here I can go to the housing commission.”

In February the then minister for immigration, Kevin Andrews, granted a two-year special-purpose visa to Robert Jovicic, a non-citizen who had lived in Australia since he was two and committed crimes related to heroin addiction.

The government had deported him to Serbia, the homeland of his parents, in June 2004. He had slept on the steps of the Australian embassy. He was brought back to Australia on compassionate grounds.

Toia has 28 days in which to lodge an appeal.