The latest feather or shall we say blemish for the Indian community is charging by Victoria police of two Indian pickpockets, a sad start to 2020 for the local Indian community.
With the latest embarrassment caused to the Indian community by a man-woman duo, words of the famous Australian population researcher – Dr Bob Birrell uttered in 2004, have come back to haunt my memories of how good this place used to be. It was really the lucky country where one did not have to be on guard all the time – whether one was home or out on work or leisure.
In a seminar workshop organized by Bharat Times, where Dr Birrell was the guest commentator, the issue of screening of future potential migrants was raised by him indirectly when he posed the question – have you seen the quality of international students coming out of your countries? Just go to La Trobe Street in the city and have a look? Do you really want people coming out to settle here without much of a screening by Australian government?
The suggestion/comment earned the ire of many in attendance. Dr Birrell only highlighted the need of proper screening of people – no matter where they came from.
Today, when Victoria police have charged a gang of seven suspected pickpockets, including two Indian nationals, who allegedly targeted several public transport users and shoppers in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) over the last two months – the Christmas period – the busiest of the year, Dr Birrell’s words have hammered home the point he was making once again.
The gang of seven – four men and three women–including five Sri Lankans–aged between 25 and 28 and a man 35 and a woman 25 both from India, have been charged with theft-related (pickpocketing) offences.
Police swung into action after several incidents on trains, trams and in shopping areas came to light, leading to investigations by detectives.
Four of the seven suspects were arrested in Sunshine and Tarneit suburbs while the remaining three were arrested in Albion.
The Australian Border Force “may look at” deporting the foreign nationals, Victoria Police spokesperson Melissa Seach was quoted saying.
“We investigated a series of organised and often opportunistic pickpocketing and thefts which were occurring for approximately two months across the city, in shopping precincts and on trams and trains,” Sergeant Chris O’Brien said.
“Rest assured Victoria Police takes this type of offending seriously, and our message to anyone out there looking to prey on those going about their everyday business is that you will be arrested and held to account,” he said.
All suspected pickpockets have been granted bail to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on April 14.
Detectives from the Melbourne Tasking Unit led the investigation named Operation Galeforce.
“Operation Galeforce was an investigation led by the MTU along with our counterparts in Transit Safety Division,” Sergeant Chris O’Brien said.
Victoria Police spokeswoman Melissa Seach speaking on local radio station 3AW said the Australian Border Force “may look at” deporting the foreign nationals.
“It would be good if these people are not allowed to stay in Australia”, an irate Victorian Indian settled in Melbourne for more than 40 years told Bharat Times from New Delhi on the condition of anonymity. He is upset as he has been struggling to get student visa for his grand daughter for more than a year, while thousands others are coming simply sailing through using agents’ services whereby many of the requirements are easily managed to meet the rules governing student visas.
“We do not want our adopted country to face the same issues we tried so hard to leave behind”, he added.
Deportation is not that simple as it sounds. Generally, a person is deported on failing the character test. And one fails the character test either on fabricating documents and providing false and misleading information or committing a crime punishable with more than 12 months imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for theft under section 74 of the Crimes Act 1958 is 10 years imprisonment. A Magistrate hearing the matter (as in this case) can only impose maximum 2 years imprisonment. But it is not mandatory. The courts in Victoria can impose any of the following penalties for the offence of Theft:
- Imprisonment (Jail – Full Time)
- Suspended sentence
- Community Corrections Orders
- Adjourned undertaking
Those hoping for deportation Indian pickpockets shall be wanting the magistrate to award more than 12 months’ imprisonment, which in turn will depend on the size of the pickpocketing haul by the gang.