Natasha Rudra July 26, 2012
A man who obtained a passport under a false name and travelled on it for eight years has been sentenced to weekend jail.
The ACT Magistrates Court heard 64-year-old Philip Lindsay Byrne was suffering a terminal illness.
He pleaded guilty to one charge of making a false statement to obtain a passport and another charge of producing a false or misleading document.
According to the statement of facts tendered in court, Byrne bought a fake birth certificate in Queensland for $500 and used it to apply for a passport under the name Philip Byne in November 2004.
He travelled on the passport for the next eight years, entering and leaving Australia 27 times.
When Byrne was caught, he told authorities that he obtained the passport because he had been the subject of an extortion attempt in the Philippines.
The court heard he readily admitted the offence to authorities and gave them a full explanation, pleading guilty at the first opportunity.
Byrne's lawyer told the court his client had family and a partner in the Philippines and regarded the country as his home.
He had only returned to Australia to receive treatment for cancer and to visit his elderly father.
Byrne had since been issued with a legitimate passport.
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said the offence was a calculated one and Byrne's repeated use of the passport reflected an ongoing criminality over a significant period of time.
Ms Walker said she was concerned that a pre-sentence report indicated the man had little insight into his actions.
She said Byrne's serious health issues meant a term of imprisonment would have a bigger impact on him than the average person, though it was clear that his medical needs could be met in jail.
But she took into account Byrne's ill health and his family circumstances, saying he had been unable to see his loved ones for six months while dealing with the criminal matters and was unable to bring them over from the Philippines to Australia.
Ms Walker sentenced Byrne to a total of nine months jail, ordering him to spend three months in weekend detention and suspending the balance of the sentence.
She also placed Byrne on a 12 month good-behaviour order starting from September.