The Supreme Court rules that the minister was wrong when he revoked the passport due to fear of Islamic State

Peter Dunne announces he will step down at the 2017 election after 33 years in parliament.

The 2016 Home Secretary, Peter Dunne, in his office a year later.
Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

The Supreme Court has said that the then national government broke the law in 2016 by revoking a woman’s passport on national security grounds.

The Crown was ordered to pay the woman $30,000 to cover her legal costs, but the court refused to order further payment – saying if there were any issues regarding costs in the lower courts, those courts should resolve them.

The ruling ends an eight-year legal battle shrouded in secrecy and overturns previous rulings by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

As acting Home Secretary, Judith Collins suspended the woman’s passport for 10 working days in 2016 while New Zealand’s SIS spy agency prepared a report on the danger the woman posed.

That report recommended revoking the woman’s passport, which stated she planned to go to Syria to join the Islamic State group, after being detained in Turkey on her way to Syria last year. reportedly to marry an Islamic State fighter.

The woman then flew to Australia, relying instead on her passport on a letter from the Australian Entry Center granting her permission to travel there while she waited for her Australian passport to be renewed.

Home Secretary Peter Dunne then – after a half-hour secret briefing based on a 20-page briefing document with references to a further 199 pages of SIS intelligence – canceled her 12-month passport.

In his testimony to the court, Dunne said the SIS assessment sets out the view that the woman would be further indoctrinated by the Islamic State group if she traveled to Syria, and would “almost certainly… come into contact with individuals who encourage acts of terror.” “.

He believed it was likely that she would provide practical support if she married an Islamic State fighter, and that she would bring technical knowledge.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that the revocation of the passport was unlawful and invalid.

In the judgment released today, the court found that the minister had no reasonable grounds to believe that the woman intended to facilitate an act of terror, and that the briefing document provided to the minister by the SIS was not fair, accurate or adequate.

The ruling said Dunne’s reliance on the woman who might travel to Syria to join a terrorist group did not meet the legal requirement that the person pose a real danger to a country, and not just a potential danger.

The judges also found that the law required there to be evidence that the passport holder intended to travel and facilitate an act of terrorism, and Dunne had no reasonable grounds to believe this – a higher standard than mere suspicion.

The woman ultimately did not go to Syria or return to New Zealand, and became eligible for a New Zealand passport again in late 2017, but did not apply.

Islamic State remains a designated terrorist entity under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Director-General Andrew Hampton said the NZSIS was required to provide advice on national security risks to supporting agencies.

“We take our obligations to prevent individuals from traveling abroad with the intention of joining a terrorist organization very seriously. Since 2016, the NZSIS has reviewed the processes associated with the advice it provides regarding passport cancellation decisions.”

He said the SIS would take time to fully consider the High Court judgment to identify any further areas where processes could be improved.