Australia defends deporting Briton after 40 years

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Australia on Monday defended its decision to deport a British man who has lived in the country for more than 40 years, as the father-of-three said he was "completely shattered" at leaving his family.

Clifford Tucker has been in Australia since he was six but has never taken citizenship, and his criminal history meant he failed the character test required for a visa.

"The government takes very seriously its role in protecting the Australian community from unacceptable risk of harm from criminal or other serious conduct by non-citizens," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said in a statement.

"The decision to cancel a visa is not taken lightly, and balances the protection of the Australian community with a range of factors including the length of time in Australia, family and links to the Australian community."

But Tucker, who served 12 years in prison for the 1983 shooting of a police officer, denied he was a career criminal.

"... I haven't committed any crimes since 1999 other than a minor assault," he told The Australian newspaper from Sydney's Villawood detention centre.

Tucker's case came to light in 2009 when he returned to Australia from a holiday on the Indonesian island of Bali and admitted his criminal history to immigration officials.

His visa was cancelled later that year after he was convicted of assault.

Tucker said he was upset at the prospect of not being able to see his children, who are aged 12, 15 and 16.

"I'll be setting up Skype but it won't be the same as holding them and hugging them. I'm completely shattered," he told the paper.

Tucker lost his appeals against Bowen's decision, firstly to the independent Administrative Appeals Tribunal and then his challenge against the tribunal's finding to the Federal Court, and was due to be deported to Britain on Monday.

Lawyer Stephen Kenny, who is acting on behalf of Tucker's family, has said there were concerns he would commit suicide if sent abroad and his removal was a fundamental breach of his human rights.

"If he's a ratbag, he's one of our ratbags," Kenny told The Australian.

In a similar case in 2005, Australia deported Robert Jovicic to Serbia on character grounds. Jovicic, who became destitute after arriving in Belgrade, has since returned to Australia and been granted permanent residency.

© 2011 AFP

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