A GRANDFATHER who had a community rallying against his “cruel” deportation from Australia has been revealed as a sex offender.
David Degning has lived in Australia for 50 years but a recent move by the Department of Home Affairs to send him back to England sparked an impassioned plea from his family to keep him in the country.
A Change.org petition describes the Batemans Bay man as a loving grandfather and pillar of the community — but news.com.au can confirm that Mr Degning was previously convicted for having sexual intercourse with a person with a cognitive impairment.
He was handed a 17-month prison sentence in 2013 by the Bega District Court, which NSW District Court Judge Clive Jeffreys suspended, immediately releasing Degning from custody.
He was placed on a 17-month good behaviour bond from July 2013.
Degning also has a criminal record for drink-driving and theft.
The petition prompted an outpouring of support for Degning, with many of the 2600 people who signed under the impression that he had been targeted over minor offences committed when he was younger.
The petition states that the Australian Government deemed Mr Degning to be of “bad character” but did not reveal the extent of his dark past.
Three months ago, Australia Border Force officers arrived at Degning’s home at 5am, handcuffed him and took him away, according to his family and friends.
He was placed in Villawood Detention Centre, from where he was due to be deported back to the United Kingdom.
In regards to his citizenship status, Degning reportedly believed he and his family were “absorbed citizens” when they arrived in Australia 50 years ago.
Under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958, a person’s visa may be refused or cancelled if they are considered to “not be of good character”.
There are a number of reasons a person can fail a test, including where a non-citizen has a substantial criminal record.
The Department of Home Affairs does not comment on individual cases but told news.com.au that any foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa will be subject to detention.
“The Australian Government takes seriously its responsibility to protect the community from the risk of harm arising from non-citizens, who choose to engage in criminal activity or other serious conduct of concern,” a spokesperson for the department said.
The supportive comments on the petition to keep Degning in Australia reveal that many people believed he had committed crimes that did not warrant deportation.
“David doesn’t claim to be perfect, none of us are we are all human and make mistakes. But that said he has already dealt with his mistakes, which do not in any way warrant the excessive attempt to deport him to a country foreign to him that he left with his family as a seven-year-old child,” one friend wrote.
“A good, fully employed family man should not be deported for a mistake he made (and was punished for) when he was in his 20s,” another said.
One person wrote that it was “ludicrous, cruel and unethical” to deport a man whose whole life and family is in Australia.
Jodie Warren, who claims to have known Degning for 30 years, previously told RiotAct that he had “gotten into trouble” when he was younger.
“When he was about 21 he was arrested for theft and spent a few months in jail, since then he has had a number of DUI (driving under the influence) convictions but hasn’t been sent to jail.”
Ms Warren said that the Batemans Bay man and his family have dealt with tragedy over this years and this threat of deportation has become “too much for them”.
“He hasn’t had the easiest life, it’s been one bad hand after another,” she said.
“Dave’s son was killed tragically in an accident when he was two and his daughter’s husband has recently died, so this is just too much for them.”