Little remorse from Field as sentence handed down
Former MP Taito Phillip Field showed no emotion as he was led from the courtroom today after being sentenced to six years’ jail time.
Field, Bible in hand, repeatedly shook his head as the details of the 11 charges of bribery and corruption and 15 of attempting to pervert the course of justice were read to him by Justice Rodney Hansen in the High Court at Auckland.
The long-serving MP for Otahuhu and Mangere was found guilty of the charges in August. Justice Hansen sentenced him to a cumulative four years for the bribery and corruption charges and two years for the obstructions of justice.
He had been acquitted of nine charges.
The starting point had been seven and a half years, but the Judge took 18 months off in consideration of Field’s history of community service and the shame he had already experienced as a result of the investigation and trial.
Justice Randerson said more time could have been taken off the sentence had Field shown greater remorse for his actions, rather than just regret.
The saga began in 2005 when rumours surfaced that Field had been accepting labour from Thai immigrants in exchange for assistance in the immigration process since 2002.
The obstruction of justice charges relate to Field’s misconduct during the subsequent investigation by Noel Ingram QC. Field lied about the events in question several times, and told the Thai immigrants in question to go along with his story.
In front of a crowded public gallery Justice Hansen acknowledged Field did not disrupt judicial process directly because the inquiry itself had no judicial power. But he said in finding him guilty the jury must have believed the inquiry could have led to a police investigation, and in attempting to stop that happening, justice had been obstructed.
In considering the length of sentence he said he had read 89 statements in support of Field’s character from various walks of life.
But, he said, some were so grateful for the good Field had done for them in his capacity as a constituent MP that they could not appreciate the guilty verdict handed down by the jury.
And Justice Hansen did not give any weight to Field’s being a member of parliament.
“From those to whom much is given, much is required,” he told Field, quoting President John F. Kennedy, who he said knew a thing or two about the burdens of holding public office.
“You were given power and authority and with that power and authority comes an obligation of trust. You broke that trust and that undermined the very institutions that it was your duty to uphold.”
He said the corruption had begun in an innocent enough manner, when Field helped two Thai nationals with the immigration process and gave them a place to stay in a property he owned. The couple did some plastering in the house by way of expressing their gratitude and refused payment for anything but the materials used.
But that interaction was the beginning of a slippery slope and “tangled web”, Justice Hansen said.
“It was actually a test of your character which in my view you failed because when your public and private duty and your private interests came into conflict your private interests prevailed.”
He said even when Field offered payment for future jobs on several of his properties (including what was to be his retirement residence in Samoa), he believed he was simply going through the motions.
“You knew they wouldn’t charge because that is what they had repeatedly said. By the time of the alter jobs it was taken for granted.”
He accepted the likelihood of reoffending was low, but wanted the sentence to act as a deterrent.
Crown lawyer Simon Moore QC said outside the courtroom the case and 14-week long trial had been exhausting, and he would not say whether he was disappointed with the sentence. He had pushed for a 10 year sentence in court.
“It’s just a really sad day, it’s a sad day for everyone in the New Zealand community. No one’s happy with any sentence but it was a very careful judgment.”
Defence lawyer Paul Davison had pushed for a sentence no longer than four and a half years.