Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Bankrupt property developer loses appeal against sentence

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A now-bankrupt property developer who was jailed for duping a family into buying properties from his company has had the appeal against his sentence dismissed by a High Court judge this afternoon.

His lawyer, however, is making another urgent attempt to get his client home detention rather than jail, and is seeking leave to appeal the sentence again, which will be heard tomorrow morning.

Glenn Cooper bought properties at mortgagee sales and sold them to buyers who were under pressure to consolidate debt, the Serious Fraud Office said when the developer admitted five dishonesty charges in January last year.

Cooper, now in his early 40s, used false sale-and-purchase agreements to conceal the fact that the properties were actually owned by companies associated with him. He also forged signatures on the agreements and added false details to loan applications.

Cooper was jailed for 19 months by a Manukau District Court judge last November and ordered to pay $25,000 in reparations.

Cooper's lawyer, Tudor Clee, appealed that sentence on Monday in the High Court at Auckland, where he submitted that his client was entitled to a higher discount for remorse and his early guilty plea than that given in the District Court.

Clee said the sentencing judge had placed too much emphasis on deterrence and denunciation and sought to align his client's case with other Serious Fraud Office prosecutions where home detention had been imposed.

But Justice Sarah Katz, who heard the appeal, dismissed it this afternoon.

"The role of the appellate court on an appeal against a refusal to grant home detention is not to revisit the merits of the sentence. Rather, the issue is whether the sentencing Judge is either plainly wrong or has erred in exercising his or her sentencing discretion by applying an incorrect principle or giving insufficient or excessive weight to a particular factor," Justice Katz said.

"As Mr Cooper has established no error in the exercise of the Judge's discretion, the sentence of imprisonment must stand," she said.

Justice Katz said the sentencing judge was correct to identify that denunciation and deterrence are important factors in Cooper's type of offending.

"Particularly where the victims are vulnerable and comm"rcially naive members of the public who were effectively conned into becoming involved in purchasing properties, at inflated prices, that they simply could not afford," the judge said.

As it stands Cooper is to surrender himself to the registrar of the High Court for transfer to prison by midday tomorrow.

However, his lawyer is seeking leave to appeal once again which will be heard by Justice Katz tomorrow morning.

- NZ Herald

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