Supreme Court rules Russian citizen with criminal record can stay

The Supreme Court of Estonia buildings, in Tartu.
The Supreme Court of Estonia buildings, in Tartu. Source: Margus Ansu/Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

The Supreme Court overruled a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) expulsion of a citizen of the Russian Federation on Tuesday, allowing the individual, who had been living in Estonia since the 1980s, to stay in Estonia, pending no future criminal activities. The case brings to light a legal distinction between stripping a residency permit, and expelling the same individual from the country, at least in the case of longer-term residents, in practice likely to be persons with Russian citizenship or that of some other former Soviet Republics.

The annulment of the PPA order, which would also have barred reentry into Estonia, concerned a Russian citizen resident in Estonia since 1983, who had reportedly been repeatedly punished in accordance with Estonia's criminal law code.

The administrative college of the Supreme Court did, however, uphold the PPA decision to invalidate the individual's long-term residence permit, it is reported.

The Russian citizen, a 41-year-old male, had received sentences repeatedly for theft crimes and narcotics possession, and was serving a prison sentence at the time of the PPA ban.

The court did not doubt that the man posed sufficient threat to public order, in the light of his criminal history, for his long-term permit to be stripped, however. The man's recent prison term conduct should also have been taken into account, the court said. He reportedly passed several addiction programs, studied Estonian and worked as a counselor whilst in prison, and was able to see out his sentence in an open prison, working outside the prison unsupervised.

The man has also reportedly not committed any offences since completing his most recent prison sentence.

Legal distinction

The case highlights a distinction between invalidating a long-term resident's permit, and ordering that resident to leave the country. Under EU law, a third country citizen (ie. non-Estonian, non-EU citizen), who has resided in Estonia for a lengthy period of time, has enhanced protection against expulsion from the country, than would a shorter-term resident.

The corollary to this is that a criminal conviction should not automatically result in expulsion in the case of such individuals, if they do not present a real and serious threat to public order at the time of the PPA decision and any court judgement, it is reported.

As a result of the ruling, the PPA additionally has to respond to the man's request for a fixed-term residence permit. However, such a fixed-term residence permit will not carry the same protection against expulsion that the man had enjoyed prior to his long-term permit being stripped. Any future recidivism could lead not only to a stripping of that permit, but ultimately an expulsion from the country after all, it is reported.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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