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Bloopers from this morning’s John Banks hearing

There were a few bloopers at the High Court at Auckland this morning during criminal callover, where John Banks restated his not-guilty plea and asked for a judge-alone trial.

When the ACT Party leader’s name was called, he continued to sit in front row of the spectators’ area. When his lawyer, Queen’s counsel David Jones, began to address the judge, Justice Timothy Brewer reminded the lawyer his client needed to stand in the dock.

Mr Banks, obviously unfamiliar with criminal proceedings, leapt from his chair and was led to the dock by security.

He appeared at the High Court for his first administrative hearing leading up to his May 19 trial for election fraud.

During the hearing, Justice Brewer incorrectly stated the 10-day trial was set for “May 19, 2013”.

When Mr Jones corrected him, Justice Brewer smiled and responded “Yes I said 2013, but that’s in the past.”

Last month, Mr Banks lost a High Court bid to review the Auckland District Court’s decision he should stand trial for signing a false election return.  

The events stem from an electoral document filed after Mr Banks’ failed mayoral bid in 2010. Kim Dotcom wrote two $25,000 donations and SkyCity wrote one $15,000 donation to Mr Banks, all of which were identified as anonymous on his electoral return.

Despite his signature on the five-page document, Mr Banks claims he didn’t prepare or scrutinise the return, so he doesn’t know which donations were marked anonymous. It’s illegal under the Local Electoral Act to claim anonymous donations when a candidate knows who made them.

Today at High Court, Mr Banks asked Justice Brewer for a judge-alone trial and the Crown had no objection.

“Due to the circumstances, it’s well understandable,” Justice Brewer says.

A dozen members of the media attended the hearing as they overflowed from the press bench to the witness seating area. One photographer continued to snap photographs beyond the first minute of the hearing granted by Justice Brewer.  

A callover is pretrial meeting where the Judge and the lawyers for both sides discuss any pretrial issues, such as a plea, setting dates or questions about evidence. In today’s criminal callover, Mr Banks was the first case to be called.

The media circus confused another lawyer, who thought she was in the wrong courtroom.

Another pre-trial hearing is set for February 19. Justice Brewer excused Mr Banks from that hearing.

More by Stephanie Flores

Comments and questions

Not surprised by the request for a non jury trial - easier to fool a Judge than 12 Jurors.

With less than 1 in 100 supporting ACT, would be near impossible for the defence to find 12 members of the public not anti Banks!

Really? I think the facts that most criminals choose a jury trial shows that they know it is easier to get "sympathy" and the chance of a dis-united jury than going for an experienced judge who is less easily swayed.

Did Bank know or not know is neither here no there, what is significant is a respected business man signed a legal document without reading it. Be warned everyone some insignificant person may come out of the woodwork later and challenge what you have done. Whilst not a Banks political supporter I none the less admire him and what he has made of his life considering his childhood. NZ’ers would well do to look at themselves, have they successfully moved thru the trials of life making a difference. Perhaps the insignificant person can tell us what he has accomplished in his life.

... me think the "insignificant person" can tell us that he has accomplished the downing of a self aggrandizing, opportunistic politician with selective memory lapses, in his life. Those who play fast and loose with the technicalities of the legal system may well pay attention to what is happening.

Banks is being judged on his actions, what he has achieved despite his poor childhood and being significant or not has no bearing on the ultimate verdict, and nor should it.

It's kinda like Bonfire of the Vanities when Sherman McCoy has his belt taken off him in lock-up, but, being posh, hasn't predicted this and so hasn't worn pants that stay up beltless, and besides, in the crook truck, he'd got covered with styrofoam peanuts, which continue to stick to his clothes due to static electricity, and it's all very horrible, but he knows he cannot undo what he's done, and it all ends with an empty gesture of solidarity as his wife leaves him, his lawyer fails him, and all that kind of stuff, and he gets this weird feeling that the nation's media has so much control over him, that his central nervous system is actually hardwired into the global communication networks.

But hang on: wasn't John Banks's "poor childhood" partly defined by criminal parents? That's the popular legend. Therefore, he's not exactly posh, and - however criminally inclined his parents were or weren't - they clearly did a good job protecting him of the minutiae of their trade.

A judge who's easily confused as to the year, the defendant with the memory of a gnat, and a lawyer who's not too familiar with the - stifling - court protocols; should make for 'Gillbert and Sullivan' comical theatre, come the actual trial.

I'd have more respect for him if he just manned up, remembered things, apologised, took responsibility - generally good character stuff.

Same goes for our glorious leader

In recent times John Banks has unashamedly derived satisfaction from verbal invective. Perhaps in Orkland at this time of year there is a kind soul who will sympathise with John's plight and send him a case of cabbages, a box of cake and a CD copy of Leonard Cohen's classic 'Everybody knows'.
ps Make sure the CD is "legal"

John Banks has given most of his adult life to his country and done a damn fine job of so many things he implemented when in Government
and equally so as Mayor of the City of Auckland there will always be "knockers" if you do something things happen and along the way you obviously will not please everyone.
At least John has put himself out there and done it !!
Its easy to criticise and do nothing.

John banks was handsomely rewarded for his time in public service and he will enjoy perks post office that folk like us will never realise, while i am under no illusion his time away from family was difficult that was the path he has chosen and for which he got paid, it does not excuse being deceitful.

I don't think there is any question that John Banks has done a great deal which is to be admired. I personally dislike the way he acts and operates as a local body and parliamentary politician, but that doesn't stop me from admiring the good he has done. Like everyone, however, this doesn't mean that he can't make mistakes, whether inadvertent, or intentional. Those mistakes might possibly include any or all of :
a) breaking the law through deliberate action or failure to act;
b) what might at worst be wilful neglect (failing to fully disclose circumstances to past events which come under scrutiny, or not looking at the serious consequences of reviewing legal documents before signing for instance), or at best misplaced trust in the staff and support people surrounding you;
c) simple ignorance and naivety.
If any of these mistakes result in a breach of the law, then it is appropriate for there to be a fact finding process and appropriate consequences under the law depending on the actual facts which are disclosed. The resultant consequences for an individual in public life then are whatever they are.
All of us, irrespective of status or wealth, are or should be in the same boat. To the best of my understanding, the very best of us are capable of bad acts, and the very worst of us are equally capable of good ones. All of us want our heroes to be beyond reproach and our villains to be truly vile, and blog accordingly. Real life however is a little more complicated.