6 Oct 2016

Jailing Sir Ngatata Love 'would be a gross injustice'

10:18 pm on 6 October 2016

Sending Sir Ngatata Love to jail for fraud would be unjust, supporters of the Māori leader have told the High Court in Wellington.

Prominent Māori leader Sir Ngatata Love is found guilty of fraud in the High Court in Wellington.

Sir Ngatata Love at his fraud trial in the High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

After a month-long trial in August, Sir Ngatata was found guilty of a charge of obtaining through deception.

But Sir Ngatata's lawyer, Colin Carruthers, asked that a conviction not be entered, pending an application for a discharge without conviction.

Mr Carruthers said a home detention sentence would be appropriate as his client had relied on advice from his former partner, Lorraine Skiffington, which could reduce his personal culpability for the offending.

He has raised concerns about how his client's health issues might be addressed if he was jailed.

One of the defendant's supporters, Martha Gilbert, told the court she understood the need for justice, but there was also a need for mercy and one did not outweigh the other.

"It would be a gross injustice for him not to be able to continue to participate in the various activities that are still going through."

But the Crown said a prison term would be appropriate.

The Crown said money paid by property developers that was supposed to go to the Wellington Tenths Trust was instead used by Sir Ngatata and his partner to pay down a mortgage on their home.

Matthew Ferrier, one of the Crown lawyers in the case, drew parallels between this case and that of the former MP Taito Phillip Field, who was found guilty of corruption charges and jailed for six years in 2009.

"It's not uncommon for offenders of high standing to come before the court, having suffered a significant fall from grace, and when offending of this nature and seriousness is uncovered, denunciation and general deterrents need to be at the forefront, and the only available approach is imprisonment."

Justice Lang will give his decision tomorrow.

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