16 Sep 2010

Court releases details on MP's passport fraud

10:20 pm on 16 September 2010

Court documents made public about ACT MP David Garrett's passport fraud reveal how he went to a cemetery to secure an identity and wore a disguise for the passport photo.

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

Mr Garrett told Parliament he admitted obtaining a passport under false pretences but never used it, and in 2005 was discharged without conviction and was granted permanent name suppression.

Mr Garrett has gone to ground since making his statement under Parliamentary privilege and asked the court to lift the suppression order so he could publicly explain his actions.

The High Court lifted the suppression on Thursday. According to court documents, the 2005 judgement describes how Mr Garrett went to a cemetery and located the headstone of the child.

He sent in the passport application, accompanied by a picture in which he had dyed his hair and worn a disguise. He also provided a false address in Christchurch.

However, the court documents show the judge accepted Mr Garrett was very contrite, posed no risk of reoffending and that a conviction would have been out of proportion to the offence.

Mr Garrett was discharged without conviction and awarded permanent name suppression.

The court papers show that in granting name suppression, the judge said there was no public interest in what Mr Garrett had done 20 years earlier, and in deciding on a discharge without conviction he believed Mr Garrett had led a blameless life.

However, the list MP has also revealed he was convicted of assault in Tonga in 2002.

Mr Garrett is refusing to make any comment until a planned media conference on Friday, where he will be joined by ACT Party leader Rodney Hide.

ACT leader cuts trip short

Mr Hide is cutting short a trip to Hong Kong and is returning to New Zealand to deal with the situation.

Mr Hide has known about the passport fraud for at least two years after Mr Garrett told him about the incident when discussing whether he should stand for the party.

Mr Hide has already backed Mr Garrett, saying he made a terrible mistake, but has put his past behind him.

Meanwhile, Mr Garrett is due to leave for a tour of Spain, Turkey and Israel led by the Speaker, Lockwood Smith, during the next Parliamentary recess.

Other MPs on the tour will be Chris Tremain (National) and Darren Hughes and David Shearer (Labour).

Dr Smith says it is not up to him to decide if Mr Garrett should represent his party on the tour.

The Speaker will lead the tour, but says he does not decide who goes on it.