Bloopers from this morning’s John Banks hearing
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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.