A deportation order is expected to commence against a convicted killer after High Court Justice Vicki-Ann Ellis ruled on May 19 that his expulsion from the Virgin Islands does not interfere with his constitutional rights to marriage and a family.
Mark Peters was convicted of manslaughter in 1999 in his native St. Vincent. When he was released from prison in 2007, he changed his name to Mark Antonio De Freitas and obtained a certificate from St. Vincent police under his new name stating that he had a clean criminal record.
Mr. De Freitas used that certificate to enter the VI, where he has been living since. He made it clear on his entry application that his name was previously Mr. Peters, according to the judgment, but apparently authorities never checked recordsfor the previous name.
But in early 2014, immigration authorities were notified about the man’s past criminal history, and they decided to deport him because he was “undesirable,” according to the judgment. A deportation order was made on June 5.
Two weeks later, VI belonger Perlin Dawson filed for a marriage license with Mr. De Freitas, but it was denied on the basis of the deportation order, according to Ms. Ellis.
Mr. De Freitas’ attorney, Patrick Thompson, argued last month that the denial of the marriage licence and the deportation order violated his client’s rights.
He pointed out that the man followed the letter of the law in entering the territory, and thus never should have had a deportation order made against him in the first place.
But Ms. Ellis disagreed. The judge wrote that the Immigration Act states that an immigration officer must be satisfied that a person hasn’t committed a serious offence before entering the territory, and that Mr. De Freitas “positively represented to the immigration authorities that he had no criminal convictions that could be of concern.”
“It is not so much his silence which is culpable, but rather his conduct in actively misrepresenting his status and doing so deliberately in circumstances where he was well aware or where he should have been aware that his true status would be relevant in determining his entry,” she added.
The judge also ruled that the deportation order does not disproportionately interfere with Mr. De Freitas’ right to a family life, because he has a deeper connection to his native country than to the VI.
“While [Mr. De Freitas] has demonstrated that he intends to marry and has established a family life with Ms. Dawson, there is very little [other than financial support] made out in regards to the family relationship between him and his fiancé’s children,” Ms. Ellis wrote. “Moreover, apart from this, [Mr. De Freitas] has not demonstrated that he has otherwise integrated into the BVI society or established any other links which would be hindered.”