501 decision: Kiwi who caused woman's death in road crash to be deported from Australia
501 decision: kiwi who caused woman's death in road crash

501 decision: Kiwi who caused woman’s death in road crash to be deported from Australia

Michael Hilton, seen in a photo released by NZ Police when they were looking for him on a warrant to arrest in 2011. Photo / NZ Police

A Kiwi who caused the death of a 25-year-old German woman when he drank up to nine beers then crashed a ute in Western Australia is being deported back to New Zealand.

Michael Brian Hilton, 36, had a criminal history including two drink-drive convictions imposed by the Tauranga District Court before moving to Australia in 2012.

He had also spent three short periods in prison, for assaulting and resisting police, and breaching community work orders.

Hilton was convicted of drink-driving again in Western Australia in 2016, when he was fined and disqualified from driving for seven months.

In November 2017, he drank beer and spirits at a pub in Perenjori, WA, with a workmate, Sarah Hurt, from Germany.

They had intended to stay there the night but got into a dispute with locals after Hilton won $2100 on a pub lottery, and they decided to drive back to the farm where they were working, about 30km away.

Hilton was driving and the pair took three cans of beer each to drink on the way.

Only 2km into their journey, their green Ford Courier double-cab ute left the country road and rolled up to five times. Hurt was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.

Australian news reports of Hilton’s sentencing in 2019 reported he drunk up to nine beers and one shot of spirits, and was found to have cannabis in his system.

Hilton tried to blame Hurt for the crash by saying that she nudged him while reaching for a duvet from the back seat.

He was sent to jail for four and a half years. He has been in custody, in prison and then in an immigration detention centre, since May 2019.

Michael Hilton, seen in a photo released by NZ Police when they were looking for him on a warrant to arrest in 2011. Photo / NZ PoliceMichael Hilton, seen in a photo released by NZ Police when they were looking for him on a warrant to arrest in 2011. Photo / NZ Police

The sentencing judge, Stephen Scott, said the fatal crash was “a very serious example of dangerous driving occasioning death”.

Judge Scott said Hilton had a “cavalier attitude” to the dangers of drink driving. Citing his history in both New Zealand and Australia, Scott said imprisonment was the only option to protect the community.

Hilton’s prison sentence triggered the cancellation of his Australian visa under the controversial Section 501 of the Australian Migration Act, making him liable to deportation.

Hilton appealed against that decision to the Australian Administrative Appeals Authority, which considered his case this month.

The tribunal declined to overturn the deportation decision, saying the need to protect the Australian community from Hilton outweighed other factors, including his family connections.

His parents, sister and sister’s children live in Australia.

The tribunal was told that he had not maintained contact with his relatives in New Zealand, and had a history of sending abusive texts to a former partner before he moved to Australia.

Hilton did not disclose his New Zealand criminal history, which included 21 offences in a six-year period, when he entered Australia.

The appeals tribunal said Hilton had done a “great many” rehabilitation courses, including alcohol and drugs counselling, while in custody.

“The effectiveness of the rehabilitation that [Hilton] has undertaken has not been tested,” it said.

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