Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Doctor on US sex charge keeps NZ citizenship after department bungle

Radiologist Dr Robert Taylor, 46, came to New Zealand in 2005 and sought citizenship in 2007. Photo / Supplied
Radiologist Dr Robert Taylor, 46, came to New Zealand in 2005 and sought citizenship in 2007. Photo / Supplied

A doctor wanted on a sex charge in the United States has won a reprieve in his fight to keep his New Zealand citizenship after a bungled attempt to revoke it by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Radiologist Dr Robert Taylor, 46, came to New Zealand in 2005 and sought citizenship in 2007.

However, in 2014 the department received an anonymous tip about his arrest by Texas police who laid a charge of "criminal solicitation of a minor to commit sexual assault of a child" in an online grooming case of a 15-year-old deaf girl - actually a police officer posing as a child - for sex.

Despite having its application to revoke Taylor's citizenship denied by the High Court, the department will now file a new application for the Minister of Internal Affairs to consider.

Taylor, who changed his name by deed poll from Max Mehta in 2007, had his citizenship granted in 2009 and went on to work in Gisborne for the Tairawhiti District Health Board as an off-site radiologist consultant up until earlier this year.

A Canterbury DHB spokeswoman earlier confirmed to the Herald Mehta also worked for Canterbury Medical Imaging - now Canterbury Community Radiology.

Given the discovery of the sex charge, Taylor's medical council registration was cancelled in New Zealand in 2015 and up until recently he was living and working in Australia.

His medical registration was cancelled in Australia this year and now he lives in New Zealand.

After discovering his arrest, the department initiated a bid to revoke Taylor's citizenship.

The office of Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne sent Taylor's counsel a letter in June 2014 stating they were seeking the revocation as Taylor failed to inform them of his history which affected the 'good character' assessment of a resident which he said was gained by "fraud, false representation, or wilful concealment of relevant information rather than by mistake".

But in March 2015, department officials changed their prosecution tack and said they were launching their bid by saying the application was granted "by mistake".

The application was granted by the minister but an appeal was launched by Taylor's counsel and was heard in the High Court earlier this year.

In her decision released this week, Justice Karen Clark found that although she agreed that Taylor's citizenship should be revoked, she was unimpressed with the department's last minute change in tack stating it was "not just a flaw in the process but a fundamental denial of Dr Taylor's entitlement to a fair opportunity to respond".

"In the context of a proposed deprivation [revocation] of citizenship the obligation to act fairly required Dr Taylor to be given a fresh opportunity to respond on each occasion the department or the minister altered its stance on the grounds for deprivation [revocation] ... the fair hearing which the department was purporting to provide to Dr Taylor was not fair and in the respects discussed his entitlement to natural justice has been breached. For these reasons the application for judicial review succeeds."

Taylor's counsel wrote the change in stance was "completely unacceptable" and the judge agreed.

"I accept [counsel's] submission that it is 'completely unacceptable', including from an evidential point of view, for a change in ministerial position to be advanced during the course of the hearing," the judge wrote.

"To my mind the notification of yet a different ground for deprivation of citizenship and the manner of the notification compounded the pre-existing breaches of natural justice."

Jeff Montgomery, general manager of citizenship at the Department of Internal Affairs, said given the judge's decision, it would now file a new application to revoke Taylor's citizenship for the minister to consider. If it's approved, and Taylor doesn't appeal, his citizenship will be revoked and his New Zealand passport cancelled.

If he remains in the country he will then be under the control of Immigration.

Timeline

2004 - Max Mehta charged in the US with online grooming of a 15-year-old deaf girl - actually a police officer posing as a child - for sex
2005 - Skipped bail and shifted to New Zealand. Gained a medical licence and worked at a Christchurch radiology practice
2007 - Changed name by deed poll, to Robert Taylor
2009 - Granted New Zealand citizenship
2009 - Moved to Australia
2013 - Found to have forged signatures on medical accreditation documents. Medical registration temporarily suspended
2014 - History made public
2015 - Medical Council of NZ cancels his registration to practise here
2016 - Australian medical registration cancelled. He returns to New Zealand
2016 - High Court dismisses Department Internal Affairs application to revoke Taylor's citizenship
2016 - Department now to file new application

- NZ Herald

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