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

Former ACT MP defies expectations by not applying for a discharge without conviction. He now says he has new, "compelling" evidence he will take to the Court of Appeal. 

Victoria Young
Fri, 01 Aug 2014

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.

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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.


Victoria Young
Fri, 01 Aug 2014
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Banks gets community service, 7pm curfew, says he will appeal