The government may have opened itself up to a costly legal battle around "double jeopardy" over its handling of the Karel Sroubek case, an immigration lawyer warns.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway yesterday over-rode his earlier decision to let the Czech drug smuggler stay in New Zealand, ruling instead he could be kicked out once released from prison.
The new decision was based on Sroubek's prior convictions in the Czech Republic, Mr Lees-Galloway said.
But the case summary - released under the Official Information Act - revealed the minister had already been told of those crimes when he made his original decision.
Immigration lawyer Simon Laurent, who used to represent Sroubek, told RNZ that appeared to be "an abuse of process" and could be challenged in court.
"I think there's a double jeopardy issue here," he said.
"Resurrecting something which no doubt was before the minister already does give a ground for review and that would be for a court to decide."
The minister's attempt to salvage the situation was "problematic" for the government, Mr Laurent said.
Mr Lees-Galloway was "technically" allowed to invoke other reasons to deport Sroubek separate from his first decision, he said.
But those reasons should be new to the minister, he said.
"Otherwise he could have four or five grounds sitting there in the background, make a decision to cancel liability for deportation on one of them and leave the others in reserve.
"That would seem to be an unfair situation in which you could just go round in circles, using up those grounds of deportation liability.
"Why not address the lot in the first decision? Give the person concerned some certainty."
Sroubek's new lawyer Paul Wicks said his client would appeal the decision through the Immigration and Protection Tribunal and was weighing up a judicial review.
Mr Lees-Galloway told Morning Report he had not set the country on track for a costly legal battle as a result of the turnaround, because Sroubek could have challenged his original decision had he decided at that time to deport him.
"That is a right that he has and he could have exercised that right if I'd made a different decision the first time round."
National MP Michael Woodhouse said the minister had left the government vulnerable to a legal challenge that "Mr Sroubek's lawyers will drive a bus through".
"This will go to court. It will be tied up for years. I don't think we've heard the last of Karel Sroubek by any measure."