Home detention for Māori performing arts educator who stole $1.3m

2:06 pm on 7 February 2020

A prominent Māori performing arts educator has been sentenced to 12 months' home detention for defrauding a tertiary education provider and a Crown agency of $1.3 million.

Donna Grant at an appearance in the High Court at Rotorua in 2018.

A judge has recognised that Donna Grant did not use the money she stole for her own benefit. Photo: NZ Herald / File

Donna Mariana Grant, 61, was sentenced today in the Rotorua High Court on three charges of dishonestly using documents and a single charge of obtaining by deception. The charges were brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Grant - who is the daughter of the late Sir Howard Morrison - used her position in several organisations to fraudulently obtain funding from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the Tertiary Education Commission.

In setting a starting point of four years' imprisonment, Justice Lang recognised that the defendant did not use the money for personal benefit.

This starting point was then significantly discounted due to several mitigating factors which included that Grant had demonstrated genuine remorse, she pleaded guilty and during her lifetime, she had made an enormous positive contribution to the community.

SFO director Julie Read said, "Mrs Grant misappropriated public funds to benefit charitable organisations that she was involved in.

"Although the defendant did not use the funds to benefit herself financially, her offending was criminal and has damaged the reputations of several organisations."

Grant pleaded guilty to the four charges when she appeared in the High Court in Rotorua in December.