John Banks to appeal

John Banks
John Banks
John Banks claims he has new evidence he will take to the Court of Appeal that will exonerate him.

Speaking outside the High Court at Auckland this morning after he was convicted and sentenced for filing a false electoral return, Mr Banks reiterated his innocence.

"I would never knowingly file a false electoral return. For all of my faults, I don't file false anything," he said.

Banks said he respected the court and the judge's finding before dropping the bombshell that there was further information that was not presented during the trial.

"Since the finding of guilt fresh, new, unimpeachable, water-tight evidence has emerged. That new evidence completely contradicts much of the evidence given in the court in front of the judge on which I was convicted," Banks said.

"We're looking forward to taking that ... to the Court of Appeal and in the process of time, that will completely exonerate me of these charges."

He would not go into detail about the new evidence saying it could jeopardise the appeal.

"We did not know the name or where these people were. It's only recently that they've come forward," he said.

In court, Banks accepted a conviction for filing a false electoral return was sentenced to community detention and community work.

It was expected his lawyer David Jones QC would argue for a discharge but he indicated immediately that would not be the case.

Accordingly, Justice Edwin Wylie convicted the Former Act MP and Mayor of Auckland.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000 but the judge said the offending was not at the upper end of the scale.

"You failed to disclose only two donations. There is nothing to suggest it was a pattern of offending," Justice Wylie said.

But it was not a victimless crime, he said, the victim of the offending was the community at large.

Banks received a term of two months' community detention, during which he will have to observe a curfew between 7pm and 7am for four nights a week.

He will also have to complete 100 hours of community work.

Mr Jones said the guilty verdict alone had an impact on his client and Banks maintained his innocence, calling the judge's verdict "bewildering".

Banks' wife had since moved to Central Otago because of the public scrutiny but continued to support him, the court was told.

During an interview with a probation officer Banks called the fiasco a "process of incremental humiliation".

Both Crown lawyer Paul Dacre and Mr Jones agreed there were many personal mitigating factors for 68-year-old Banks.

"It can only be described as an aberration in a career by Mr Banks that's one of great public service over several decades," the defence lawyer said.

"[The offending] must be seen in that context." However, Mr Dacre called the offending "premeditated" and said it happened at the height of the failed mayoral campaign because the donation was politically sensitive.

The Crown said the starting point should be a sentence of imprisonment before the judge turned his mind to relevant discounts.

Mr Dacre accepted a community-based sentence could be appropriate.

But Mr Jones argued a fine was the only appropriate sentence seeing as it was, in his submission, "the lowest level of offending".

"It can't possibly attract a term of imprisonment as a start point, an end point or any point or any point," he said.

After a private prosecution brought by Wellington accountant Graham McCready the Crown argued Banks' failed mayoral campaign received two $25,000 donations from Megastuff Ltd on Kim Dotcom's behalf in June 2010 and $15,000 from SkyCity in May that year.

At a judge-alone trial in June, Justice Wylie ruled the charge in relation to the SkyCity donation was not proven, but he was sure the return was false when it came to the Megastuff payments.

Upon finding Banks guilty, the judge said he found internet mogul Dotcom, his estranged wife Mona and his former security guard Wayne Tempero, who all gave evidence, to be reliable witnesses and he was satisfied there was a discussion about a donation when Banks visited Dotcom's Coatesville mansion in June 2010.

Justice Wylie rejected assertions from Mr Jones that the Dotcom witnesses had orchestrated their evidence as part of a conspiracy theory to bring down the Government.

After being found guilty in June, Banks stepped down from his role in Parliament as an MP for Act.

Mr McCready has applied for costs against Banks, which would be opposed by the former politician.

Banks is currently working as a project manager and said there were numerous opportunities for future employment restructuring small businesses.

Outside court Mr McCready announced: "The universe is unfolding as it should."
He said his celebration would be low key - doing the laundry and having a spot of lunch with a friend.

Mr McCready hoped it would put the focus on why police didn't prosecute Banks in the first place.

He was claiming $45,000 in costs which, if his application was successful, would go to charity.

"I've been doing it for 50 years, it's nothing new. I don't go out looking for them, people phone me," he said.

Labour's candidate for Epsom Michael Wood said it was time for the Act party to apologise to people in the electorate.

"Act have embarrassed Epsom time and again ... they have no respect for the people of Epsom who have been embarrassed by this circus of a party. Act should immediately apologise," he said in a statement.

 

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