Lawyer says Packer faces battle to stay in Australia

Russell Packer
Russell Packer
Disgraced rugby league player Russell Packer faces an uphill battle to stay in Australia if he serves more than a year in prison, an Australian lawyer says.

Turners Coulson Immigration Lawyers' principal solicitor Ray Turner told the Herald from Sydney that if Packer served more than a year in prison he would be liable to have his special category visa cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958.

"If that happens and we couldn't get it overturned, he could never, ever return to Australia for any reason, which would effectively kill his rugby league career unless they send him off to England."

Packer, 24, was sent to jail for two years for seriously assaulting an expat New Zealand man in Sydney in November after he was asked to leave a bar for being drunk.

Packer's appeal will be heard on February 11.

Mr Turner said Packer could still be deported if he served less than a year or was asked to do community service because of a character test he would still have to meet.

"There's a thing called the character test which is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation you will ever read and if you [serve] 12 months or more you will fail the character test," he said.

Packer's victim was expat New Zealander Lester Enoka Time, who grew up in Manurewa and whose parents still live in South Auckland.

The 22-year-old could not be contacted for comment yesterday but a relative said he came from a good family who attended church regularly.

Auckland rugby league football administrator Juanita Woodhouse said Time played rugby league in the junior grades in South Auckland as a centre and played for the Manurewa Marlins.

He also represented the Counties Manukau Stingrays briefly.

Ms Woodhouse said Time had gone to Australia in 2009 to try his luck at a rugby league club.

Off the field, she said Time was a good guy. Australia's Daily Telegraph reported Time had gone to Facebook to thank his friends and to wish them a happy Monday. By yesterday, all traces of his Facebook page had disappeared.

He also sent a barbed tweet aimed at Packer, before his Twitter account was shut down.

It followed another tweet Time sent on November 23 - a day after the assault - when it appeared he was challenging Packer to a "one-on-one" fight.

Meanwhile, former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe told TVNZ he hoped Packer's conviction would end his NRL career.

"This absolute reckless and vicious cycle that seems to be coming into our society has got to be stopped," he said.

"And the only way to stop it is with these harsh penalties."

The victim

Lester Enoka Time

22- year-old New Zealander, living in Australia

Played rugby league in the junior grades in South Auckland and played for the Manurewa Marlins and Counties Manukau Stingrays

- James Ihaka of the New Zealand Herald

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