Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can't intervene in the case of a person granted residency in New Zealand despite multiple convictions for drink driving and driving without a licence.
Newshub revealed on Tuesday Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granted residency to two criminals, Karel Sroubek and another who has not been named.
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The unnamed criminal has eight criminal convictions. Six are for driving with excess breath alcohol and two are for driving without a licence.
Documents provided to Newshub under the official information act show the decision was made using Lees-Galloway's absolute discretion. "This person is a protected person in New Zealand and deportation was not an option," he said.
According to Immigration New Zealand, a protected person is a person for whom there are "substantial grounds for believing she or he would be in danger of torture, arbitrary deprivation of life or cruel treatment if deported from New Zealand".
Ardern told The AM Show on Tuesday the criminal's status means her hands are tied and she can't step in.
"A protected person - that's a decision that's made by a tribunal, not by ministers, not by politicians. That's made separately.
"Once somebody is designated as a protected person they cannot be deported or removed from New Zealand."
But she is hopeful the justice system is involved with the offender.
"I'm never going to stand here and defend repeat drink driving. I won't - that is a danger and that kind of behaviour does need to be stopped through our justice system. That's what they're there for.
"I can't speak to whether or not they've removed his licence, whether he's been put in treatment programmes. He should, but ultimately a protected person, that's somebody who cannot be removed from New Zealand so that is a separate issue."
Lees-Galloway refused an interview with Newshub about granting residencies to convicted criminals. National Party justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says he's got a credibility issue so that's not good enough.
"This minister has not got a good track record. He's going to have to front. There's going to have to be transparency around it, and he's going to have to explain why a decision like this was made when we've got good law-abiding people in this country that would make good citizens that have been turned down every week".
"I don't think this country has got a lot of faith in his decision-making ability when it comes to these types of cases."