18 Sep 2010

ACT leader admits judgement lacking on Garrett

7:12 am on 18 September 2010

ACT Party leader Rodney Hide says he regrets the hurt caused to the victims of David Garrett's passport fraud and admits he was wrong to support him as a candidate.

The embattled list MP on Friday resigned from the party less than 48 hours after it was revealed he had used the identity of a dead child to obtain a false passport.

On Wednesday, Mr Garrett admitted in Parliament that in 1984 he used the child's identity to get the passport after reading about the method in the Frederick Forsyth novel The Day of the Jackal.

Mr Garrett told the House he admitted obtaining a passport under false pretences but never used it, and in 2005 was discharged without conviction and granted permanent name suppression. The suppression order was lifted on Thursday at his request.

In an exclusive interview with Radio New Zealand's parliamentary chief reporter Jane Patterson on Friday, Mr Garrett admitted while his political career is almost certainly over, his main concern is re-opening the wounds of the child's family.

"The worst aspect of all of this for me is that those who have seen fit to do so have opened the wounds of the boy's mother and sister all over again. As the person who inflicted those wounds in the first place, however unwittingly, I must take ultimate responsibility for that."

Mr Hide says he told Mr Garrett on Thursday that he could no longer defend him after issues emerged about the accuracy of an affidavit he prepared as part of the 2005 case. He says it was a tough call, and Mr Garrett had done a lot as an MP.

Mr Hide says he regrets his lack of judgement in supporting Mr Garrett's candidacy and did not think through the consequences for the child's family.

Mr Hide says as leader of the ACT Party, the buck stops with him. He says the party has always had a tough time and accepts it just got tougher ahead of the 2011 general election.

MP should listen to public - Key

Mr Garrett is taking two weeks' leave from Parliament to consider his future. But Prime Minster John Key says the MP should listen to the New Zealand public who want him to quit Parliament altogether.

Mr Key says he continues to have confidence Mr Hide and is not concerned about the stability of ACT, which is one of the National Government's support parties.

However, Mr Key says if Mr Garrett remains in Parliament, National will not seek to reach any sort of support arrangement with him.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says the revelations should prompt the Prime Minister to dump Mr Hide and ACT deputy leader John Boscawen from their ministerial posts.

Mr Goff says Mr Hide had known about the offence and ACT is guilty of hypocrisy given it campaigned strongly on tougher sentencing and on openness in the court process.

Court details released

A suppression order on Mr Garrett's 2005 court case was lifted on Thursday.

The judgement describes how he located a headstone with the child's name at a cemetery and sent in the passport application with a photograph of himself in disguise. He also provided a false address in Christchurch.

Accepting that Mr Garrett was contrite and posed no risk of reoffending, the judge said a conviction would have been out of proportion to the offence.

The judge said that in 20 years since getting the fake passport, Mr Garrett had led a blameless life. Mr Garrett said this week, however, that he was convicted of assault in Tonga in 2002.

He says he made Mr Hide aware of the identity fraud case before he entered Parliament in 2008.

Garrett 'looks like a hypocrite'

The Sensible Sentencing Trust says the former ACT MP David Garrett looks like a hypocrite for not being open and honest about his offences.

Mr Garrett has resigned from ACT after it was revealed on Wednesday he had used the identity of a dead child to obtain a false passport in 1984.

Mr Garrett has been closely associated with Sensible Sentencing Trust since 2001, only resigning when he decided to become a politician.

Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar says if he had been directly asked, he would have advised Mr Garrett to have come clean before the last election.

Mr McVicar says Mr Garrett supported the trust's position on removing name suppression and having all previous convictions available, and finds it surprising he chose not to follow what he believed.