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Banks gets community service, 7pm curfew, says he will appeal

LATEST: John Banks says he will take his case to the Court of Appeal.

He told media outside the High Court at Auckland today that new, compelling and unimpeachable evidence had been found.

This followed his sentencing in the Auckland High Court this morning after being convicted under Electoral Act charges.

The former MP maintains his innocence, saying he has never filed a false anything, let alone a false electoral return.

He says new witnesses have now come forward, and that those unnamed witnesses could not be located at the time of the trial.

He did not respond when asked if the evidence was to come from two American businessmen who had been identified at the High Court stage but did not give evidence.

UPDATE: John Banks has avoided prison, and faces two months community detention and 100 hours of community service after being convicted this morning.

The former ACT MP was emotionless in the dock as his sentence was read out in front of a court where it was standing-room-only.

Justice Ed Wylie said the detention is appropriate and includes a curfew of four nights a week where Mr Banks will have to be at his inner city apartment from 7pm.

The curfew applies for two months.

His lawyer David Jones QC told the Auckland High Court this morning that Mr Banks did not apply for a discharge without conviction because the effect of the verdict took away a significant reason for him to apply for a discharge.

Justice Wylie said the offending was at a relatively low level, although the victim of the offending is the community at large.

From a starting point of four months imprisonment, Justice Wylie said Mr Banks had an untarnished reputation before this offending and that his community service was of value.

He said a fine was inappropriate to sufficiently discourage others' misconduct.

Justice Wylie said Mr Banks has already suffered great personal embarassment and noted he had resigned as an MP.

The judge said he had considered that it was important to deter others from Electoral Act offences, and that evidence at the trial indicated Mr Bank's donation collection systems were common practice.

Justice Wylie said a pre-sentencing report found that Mr Banks' wife had been profoundly affected by the verdict. He had been told that Mr Banks is employed as a project manager in the area of restructuring small businesses.

The probation officer recommended a fine and said Mr Banks had found the past year "bewildering" and one of "incremental humiliation".

The lawyer for the Crown, Paul Dacre QC, summarised the Crown's position, which was that the the dishonesty meant a greater weight should be placed on accountability, in order to deter others from doing the same. There have been no successful prosecutions under the Electoral Act, so it was difficult to find a starting point for sentencing, Mr Dacre told the court.

He said the starting point should be 9-12 months imprisonment, noting this would allow a community-based release after some time. Mr Dacre said the Crown acknowledged a community-based sentence could be more appropriate.

Mr Dacre acknowledged Mr Banks had done a public service and had previous good character.

Mr Jones said the act was an "abberation" in a career comprising great public service over several decades, so it must be seen in that context.

He wanted a fine, and noted that was an option available to Justice Wylie under the legislation.

Mr Jones told the court imprisonment should not be a starting point, end point or any point, and that the immense fallout of the guilty verdict should be considered as mitigating factors.
Mr Jones says the issue of the identity of a donor can be important, and would be important if the person was elected, but Mr Banks was not.

He said in court that the guilty finding does not show who Mr Banks is, how he deals with it does, and noted Mr Banks had resigned from Parliament.

There will be a brief adjournment before Justice Wylie deals with the separate but related matter that APN title The NZ Herald ran a story that referred to a digi-poll, which could be in contempt of court.

What do you think? Was John Banks sentence: Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

EARLIER: A conviction has been entered against John Banks in the Auckland High Court this morning.

Against expectatation, the former ACT MP did not apply for a discharge without conviction.

He is waiting to hear his punishment as the sentencing hearing continues.

On June 5, Mr Banks was found guilty under Section 134(1) of the Local Electoral Act for knowingly filing a false electoral return.

The offence carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or sentence of up to two years in prison. 

Crown prosecutor Paul Dacre QC is addressing the court on the sentence, before Mr Banks' lawyer David Jones QC does the same.

During Mr Banks trial, the Crown argued he knew that a $15,000 donation was from SkyCity and two $25,000 donations were from Kim Dotcom. The donations were recorded as anonymous on a signed declaration.


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Comments and questions

Whats with the 7pm curfew ? Seems a bit silly.

A mere slap on the wrist but - in the eyes of the public - John Banks effectively sentenced himself when he left it to his wife to testify on his behalf.

100 hours of community service = PD.
The grass outside Dotcom's mansion is looking a bit straggly. He should be part of the chain gang tidying up that road verge.

And what did Tuku Morgan, Shane Jones and all of the others get for their misdemeanors which were just as bad if not worse!!!!!
My great grandfather was dead right when he preached to me, that in society life is not fair, I'm not the greatest fan of motor mouth "Banksie" but this to me is a classic case of unfairness compared to others.

And yet our former Minister of Racing who anonymised donations from a large racing family; and was caught doing the same for donations from Owen Glenn still goes completely unpunished and may even be the king maker in this election?

Don't forget the scampi quota fiasco and Mr Meurant's recollection of events will you?!

John Banks has given more service to New Zealand and Auckland than all of the shrills commenting here and elsewhere. What a pathetic display of the usual tall poppy small willie syndrome. I hope he appeals and wins. That will wipe the sickly smile of a lot of faces.

Thank goodness for the new "compelling and unimpeachable evidence", which will see him exonerated.

Better late than never, as they say.

Good on you John. Fight all the way as you have all your life to make life better for a lot more people than those persecuting you.

I have never been a great John Banks fan although I have always admired the fact he tried to help the community despite his bad start in life. But I feel sorry for him now considering some of the other election funding shenanigans that other parties and politicians got up to. It is hard to go past infamous the 'NO' sign.

Banks can be irritating and terribly indecisive, but he certainly doesn't deserve to have anything like this on his record....since he has dedicated his life, which is largely one of public service and 'doing the right thing' to making amends for his parents' record.
Any conviction beyond a traffic fine, should never have been attached to him. Especially in a cesspit, highlighted above, like the one he was in.
Let's hope the Yanks prove more convincing than the flimflam German.
Unbelievable that any judge would swallow the snake oil dispensed. Wow.

He tried to hide the origin of large donations. That is illegal.

It's ridiculous to say that because he's such a nice fellow he should be above the law.

And the best thing this whole Dotcom farce has done is to expose exactly how much money controls politics. There would have been no arrest in the first place were this not the case.

I think you should at least wait for the appeal before mounting your high-horse. Clearly you have a personal or ideological problem with Banks, which strangely doesn't go to Peters, Jones etc, as outlined above.
As to the 'justice' doled out so far, I think that's where the 'much to be desired' bit you trot out, needs application.
The dear judge has sentenced Banks a non-drinking, do-gooder (generally agreed across party lines) to be home by 7 PM. Stalkers, killers etc don't have that.
I'm more worried about His Lordship than the former Mr Mayor. Aren't you?

That a selfless career of service to others should be ended by a clerical error of zero consequence is ABSURD.That a judge should prefer the evidence of a convicted international criminal is even more concerning

A convicted international criminal who couldn't agree with his wife whether they were both in the room; and a security guard who couldn't get the city right in which the cheque was banked. Oh - and make that a convicted criminal who was publicly angry because he didn't get any favours from Banks showing how little influence he'd actually managed to buy!

Yeah - they seemed mighty reliable witnesses to me.

Our legal system once again at its best. We let child killers, and rapists out of on bail ..........

He was lucky. He ought to have been dealt with more harshly because his conviction is at the heart of the liberal democracy that NZ can be proud of. Now, watch NZ slide down the ladder for leats corrupt nations. A sad day when judges treat their own kind with greater sympathy at the cost of the nation.

Poor ol' Banksie......what a shame he couldn't lay claim to having been descended from Maori Royalty....the outcome would have been soo much different!

You have obviously forgotten about Helen Clarkes pledge card and how Labour created retrospective legislation to make an illegal theft of money legal. How Philip Tato Field walked free uncharged under Labour.
. Banks problem is he was caught up in a time of relatve honest Governance.

It is really disappointing to see the convicted criminal John Banks not sent to prison. The ACT party has campaigned on toughening up on sentencing. The crime this criminal was convicted of is an absolute disgrace, he took the nations trust and destroyed it.. Shameful crime with a shameful sentence. On appeal I think it only right that his sentence be increased to include at minimum a one year jail sentence.

I wonder who is the more guilty, the one offering the donation in a manner that they knew circumvented the system, or the one accepting it. You can't have the one without the other. The situation reflects equally on Dot Com.

Secondly, why is Dot Com angry? Because he thought he'd paid a bribe that hadn't been treated as such. Again, which party does this reflect upon? Isn't it an offense to offer a bribe in NZ?

Sadly, we are stuck with a Mayor with zero integrity, a legal system arguing points of law and not upholding justice, and the rest of the political riff raff confessing their mutual guilt with their resounding silence.

Unfortunately I fear we get what we deserve.