Capill and Huata lead celebrity charge to jail

By Danya Levy

The news stunned the nation. Former Christian Heritage Party leader the Rev Graham Capill - self-appointed moral watchdog and guardian of family values - was a paedophile.

Once called the "Patricia Bartlett of the 90s" during his 14-year political and moral crusade, Capill in June admitted raping, sexually violating and indecently assaulting three girls aged between five and 11.

The abuse happened while he was party leader between 1990 and 2002 - even as he denounced the "evil" scourge of child abuse.

"Your life was a lie," Christchurch District Court Judge Robert Kerr told Capill as he sentenced the former police prosecutor to nine years' jail.

Anger and indignation transcended religion and politics.

Capill's crimes were "the absolute height of hypocrisy", said Labour MP and transsexual Georgina Beyer.

"It's a tragedy for everyone," said Bruce Logan, director of the conservative think-tank the Maxim Institute.

"My response is to go into a corner and weep."

Capill appealed against his "manifestly excessive" sentence and then complained about his treatment at Rolleston Prison.

His appeal will be heard next month.

Former South Auckland Senior Sergeant Anthony Solomona was convicted in February of assaulting 17-year-old Angelo Turner on the forecourt of a Manurewa service station.

His heavy-handed policing techniques - such as making a 15-year-old boy wear a sign saying "I am the property of Senior Sergeant Solomona" - were criticised by Judge Bruce Davidson who condemned a wider "sick" police culture.

An independent inquiry did not find evidence of a national police culture of violence, but said the now-disbanded Counties Manukau Emergency Response Group had degraded people in custody.

Solomona wasn't the only policeman to find himself in the dock.

Five officers who ensured Prime Minister Helen Clark made a flight from Christchurch in July 2004 in time to attend a rugby test in Wellington by driving her motorcade at speeds of up to 140km/h, found themselves before Timaru District Court.

Ashburton policeman Simon Vincent was found guilty of dangerous driving and Timaru officer Ian Howard was convicted of dangerous driving and following too closely. Helen Clark's unnamed civilian driver was found guilty of dangerous driving and following too closely, but had his conviction overturned on appeal.

The Police Association is considering appealing against Vincent and Howard's convictions.

Waikato Superintendent Kelvin Powell faced historic rape allegations by a former colleague who said he took advantage of her at a party in 1984.

A jury acquitted Mr Powell in August and he is back at work.

Maori activist Tame Iti found himself in hot water in January after a protest which re-enacted the Crown's "scorched earth" policy in the 1860s before members of the Waitangi Tribunal at Ruatoki.

Iti conducted his own defence in Maori during a depositions hearing at Whakatane District Court and was committed for trial on a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm in public.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters was overseas when his claims that Tauranga's first new MP in 21 years overspent his campaign budget were put to the High Court.

But the three-judge Bench disagreed National's Bob "The Builder" Clarkson had exceeded the $20,000 limit and Mr Peters was forced remove MP signs at his electoral office.

Revelations that two "household name" celebrities were caught in a white-collar drug ring in July sparked a nationwide game of Chinese whispers.

Police confirmed they had spoken to television personality Lana Coc-Kroft and former All Black Josh Kronfeld but said neither would be charged.

By August former All Black turned television star Marc Ellis confirmed the country's worst kept secret - he had been caught buying five Ecstasy pills.

After being convicted and fined $300, Ellis apologised to his parents, family, friends and supporters, saying he had made an error of judgment.

But his mistake did not harm his career - he was named most popular male personality at the Qantas Television Awards in November.

Former league player Brent Todd was identified as the other celebrity named in court documents. Todd, who lives in Australia, has denied any involvement with the drug ring and has yet to be spoken to by police.

The year's most dramatic trial was that of former Act MP Donna Awatere Huata and husband Wi Huata.

The stylish couple maintained their innocence despite being convicted of defrauding the Pipi Foundation for underprivileged Maori children of more than $80,000 and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

A Serious Fraud Office investigation revealed the money had helped pay for a stomach stapling operation for Awatere Huata and school fees for her children.

Awatere Huata is serving a sentence of two years and nine months at Wellington's Arohata Prison. Wi Huata was sentenced to two years but was granted bail and is at home with the children until the couple's joint appeal is heard.

The Auckland District Court erupted as the couple were sentenced. Police were called after Huata supporters cursed the "racist" judicial system and "race-based sentencing" before performing a haka.

Judge Roderick Joyce, QC, said Awatere Huata had suffered beyond her jail sentence. "The higher one's foothold on fame, the greater the fall and the worse the injury."

- NZPA

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