Court upholds Ngatata Love conviction

11:28 am on 26 June 2017

The Court of Appeal has turned down a bid by Wellington iwi leader Sir Ngatata Love to have his conviction for obtaining property by deception overturned.

Sir Ngatata Love during his trial in the High Court of Wellington on 6 October 2016.

Sir Ngatata Love during his trial in the High Court of Wellington on 6 October 2016. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

At a trial last year Love, 79, was found to have sold his influence as chair of iwi organisation Wellington Tenths Trust to a group working on a property development in Wellington.

The developers paid $1.5 million to a company run by his partner Lorraine Skiffington, but most of the money was used to pay down a mortgage on the couple's home.

His lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, had told the court that Love was suffering from dementia at the time of his trial, making it diffcult for him to recall events and articulate his defence.

In a lengthy judgment today, Justice Rhys Harrison upheld the conviction and two-and-a-half-year prison sentence and turned down the wish to call new evidence.

The judge said Love had proved an adept witness, giving clear, emphatic answers in cross-examination.

On the request to call new witnesses, Justice Harrison said the evidence was not fresh and could have been called at the trial.

While Mr Krebs had questioned the advice of Love's lawyer at the trial, Colin Carruthers QC, the judge said there was no evidence that Love himself had challenged the advice.

The judge said the sentence was also well within range and not excessive.

Mr Krebs had raised the issue of the effect on Love's health of serving a prison sentence. As well as dementia, Love suffers from diabetes.

But Justice Harrison said the prison had been able to adjust to his dietary needs.

"There is no evidence (Love) is suffering unduly, to the contrary he appears to be in relative good health," the judge said.

Mr Krebs had also asked the court to take into account the remorse of senior representatives of Love's iwi.

But the judge rejected this, saying remorse could not be transferred to Love.

"The fact remains that Dr Love has never expressed his remorse, in particular to those whose trust he betrayed and suffered by his fraud."

Justice Harrison said it was significant that Love had not challenged the factual findings by trial judge Justice Lang.

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