‘Silver Spoon’ Judge Rejects Over 99% of Immigration Applications

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Applicants are accusing Judge Alexander ‘Sandy’ Street of the Federal Circuit Court of apprehended bias when hearing migration matters.

In a highly unusual move, applicants have filed statistics showing that Judge Street found in favour of the Immigration Department in 252 out of 254 cases over the last 6 months.

This meant that he found just 0.79% of cases in favour of migration applicants. This is well below the average of 10 to 12% in favour of applicants by other Federal Court Circuit judges sitting in Sydney.

Applicants are arguing that the statistics create an apprehension of bias, with those who come before him feeling that they have virtually no chance of success.

Who is ‘Sandy’ Street?

Alexander ‘Sandy’ Street comes from one of the most wealthy and famous legal families in Australia. His father, Sir Laurence, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Chief Justices of NSW.

Long before his appointment as a judge in December 2014, Mr Street had achieved the title of SC, or ‘Senior Counsel’. However, he received a substantial amount of unwanted media attention for his personal issues, including his less than amicable divorce.

During those proceedings, Mr Street told the NSW Supreme Court that he could not afford to repay his debts – which included a $240,000 tax debt, credit card bills, child support payments, rent and a car loan. He said that he had borrowed a large amount of money in 2006 when struggling to pay the mortgage on a six-bedroom Vaucluse mansion, but could not repay that loan despite it being given to him on an interest-free basis.

Attorney General George Brandis appointed Mr Street as a judge despite the fact that he was close to bankruptcy.

What is Apprehended Bias?

Apprehended bias is when a decision-maker such as a judge appears to be biased. It does not require proof of actually bias, but rather a perception that the judge is partial in certain types of cases, or in respect of certain people or groups.

The rule against bias is an essential pillar of natural justice. It is designed to ensure that judges approach matters free from prejudgment and prejudice, and that the public has confidence in the judicial system.

The case of Johnson v Johnson (2000) 201 CLR 488 found that the test for apprehended bias is whether:

“a fair-minded lay observer might reasonably apprehend that the judge might not bring an impartial and unprejudiced mind to the resolution of the question the judge is required to decide”.

If this test is satisfied, the judge must disqualify themselves from the case. It is also grounds to set aside the decision of a judge.

Criticism Over Street’s Migration Decisions

Over the past six months, Judge Street delivered rulings in an astonishing 286 cases. The other eight judges on Sydney’s Federal Circuit Court delivered a total of 357 decisions between them. Mr Street had multiple decisions overturned by the Federal Court, often accompanied by harsh criticism about his misapplication of the law.

In SZWBH v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2015] FCAFC 88, Justices Mansfield, Tracey and Mortimer overturned Mr Street’s decision to summarily dismiss an application from a Tamil asylum seeker.

Under section 17A of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 (Cth), judges are allowed to give a summary judgment if the applicant has “no reasonable prospect” of success. This means that the case must be “hopeless” or “bound to fail”. When there is a summary judgment, the parties do not even get the chance to have their full case heard. It is a mechanism designed to ensure that the court is not wasting resources on cases that are doomed to failure.

But in the case of SZWBH, the Federal Court found that Judge Street was completely in error because there were significant facts that were still being disputed between the applicant and the Immigration Department. These included the applicant’s highly relevant claim that his brother, sister and her husband had been murdered in Sri Lanka. The applicant was unrepresented, and through a translator told Judge Street he would be targeted by police in Sri Lanka if he returned.

The Full Bench of the Federal Court delivered a judgement which was scathing in its criticism of Street, finding that:

“Serious issues relating to the procedural fairness of proceedings must arise in circumstances such as the present… These circumstances, or ones similar to them, should not occur again.”

Judge Flick overturned two other cases heard by Street; namely AAV15 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2015] FCA 700 (10 July 2015) and AEG15 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2015] FCA 702 (10 July 2015). Both were sent back to the Federal Circuit Court to be heard again by a different judge.

Street’s seemingly nonchalant attitude towards criticism by other, more senior judges, and dismissive attitude towards the cases – and lives – of others, raises very real questions about whether he should be a judge at all – despite his impeccable pedigree.

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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney’s Leading Firm of Criminal & Traffic Defence Lawyers.

4 Comments

  1. gabby

    The fact remains, the Immigration Dept has aright to remove from Australia persons which are likely to be a burden on Australia, such as welfare dependent lazy refugees applicants who refuse to learn english wont get a job or are from a religion which teaches to kill non believers and wage war against all non believers, to overthrow non beleivers governments and institute their cults barbaric backward evil laws. Our Government has a right and must continue to be able to kick out undesireables who will never assimilate or who will be a future welfare burden financially or security risk on us here in Australia, good ont his Judge more power to him, he obviously looked at the cases and realised that the Dept of Immigration was right. The only refugees who should get refugee status are Christians and yazidis and persecuted minority who keep being genocided by muhammedans. We must keep Australian majority Christians, plenty other nations for muhammedans to go to , at least 60 muhammedan nations, why should we be burdened with moslems when they have proven world wide what they are capable of and what they really think of Christians, Christians are being genocided by muhammedans in Middle east and asia, and africa and we do not want muhammedans here, we can see exactly what is going on in europe and attempts to overthrow law by shariah impositions and halal scams, no go areas, in france and europe, shariah patrols and disgusting anti democracy rallies by muhammedans no thanks keep all muhammedans in muhammedan nations.

  2. Zuke

    Excellent work, Ugur! I and many other human rights activists deeply appreciate the significance of your article.

  3. GARY AUSTIN GRIFFITHS

    How does someone who has lived in australia for 50yrs and is a permanent resident ,gets canceled by the assistant minister under the new 501 laws for domestic violence gets a 12month sentence 9months jail and 3months parole then spends 4 years in villawood detention centre. Where he has seen a detainee die after a fight , another one get drugged and raped and then finds another detainee hanging . and now suffers post traumatic stress disorder , anxiety and depression to which he had none of these ailments prior to his time being detained in villawood.His mother is an australian citizen aged in her mid seventiesand he is the only family she has here in australia.Her son got mixed up in a dysfunctional relationship. With no prior charges of this nature in 40years of relationships, He has not lived in england since 1969 and if deported his mother will have to sell his house and move back to england . as she stated who is going to look after me when i get sick and who is going to bury me when i die. He is not a murderer , gang affiliated or god forbid a sexual predator.Has worked and paid taxes for over 30 years voted in both state and federal elections and is the primary carer of his aging mother and yet a iraqi rapist who was sentenced to 4years jail gets canceled by a delegate then gets his visa back from the A.A.T and he has only been in the country for 9 years and gets a second chance. now forgive me if i am wrong but i think the bloke who has been here 50 years deserves a second chance this story should be heard by everyone. the inconsistencies of’ the immigration should be brought to light and while were at it why doesnt peter dutton refer himself to the high court to prove his eligibility to sit in parliament under section41 of the constitution

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