Axe protester got passport in dead baby's name

An Auckland man jailed yesterday for two months on a rare sedition charge will spend extra time behind bars on unrelated fraud charges, including obtaining a passport under a dead baby's name.

Timothy Selwyn, 32, was convicted last month of sending a seditious document and conspiring to commit wilful damage when he slammed an axe into the window of Prime Minister Helen Clark's Auckland electorate office in November 2004.

In addition to the two-month sentence for these charges, Judge Josephine Bouchier jailed Selwyn for a further 15 months on fraud charges, including obtaining a passport, a birth certificate, benefits and four Inland Revenue Department numbers under the names of dead people.

The sentences are to be served cumulatively, meaning Selwyn was sentenced to a total of 17 months.

He was denied leave to apply for home detention.

A jury last month found Selwyn guilty of the sedition charge after he admitted all the other charges. He had been found not guilty on another charge of sending a seditious document.

Selwyn said his actions were in protest at the Government's contentious foreshore and seabed legislation, which he said was being rushed through Parliament.

During his trial he admitted "having a hand" in the creation of two statements claiming responsibility for the axe attack and calling for others to commit acts of civil disobedience.

The jury found the material in the second statement, which called for "like-minded New Zealanders to take similar action of their own", to be seditious.

The sedition conviction was believed to be the first for more than 50 years.

Selwyn argued that the charge against him was a means of suppressing political dissent.

Though the sedition charges have received more publicity, it was the fraud charges which earned Selwyn the longer sentence.

The summary of facts, released yesterday, revealed that in 1993 and 1994 Selwyn obtained a false passport, false birth certificate and four false IRD numbers under the names of dead people.

He used the false passport and birth certificate in 1993 and 1995 to gain $11,141.35 in unemployment and accommodation supplement benefits.

Crown submissions called for a jail term of 18 to 24 months on the fraud charges and three months on the wilful damage and sedition charges.

The defence urged the judge to sentence Selwyn instead to a substantial community work term.

Judge Bouchier said the individual fraud charges would be worthy of a community work sentence but their number meant a jail term was needed as a denunciation and deterrent.

Detective Sergeant Millar Rewi of the Auckland police said the sedition charge was considered and appropriate. "If you look at the actions of the defendant in totality it suggests a little bit more than just making a press release."

Selwyn's lawyer, Mark Edgar, said he was disappointed but not surprised at the sentence.

An appeal against the sedition charge is expected.

Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury, a friend of the accused who was in court for the sentencing, said the Crown had trawled through Selwyn's past and included "all the crazy stuff he did as a young radical" when presenting submissions to the judge.

"They grabbed all that up and went for a very hard sentence. They didn't even allow him home detention. [It] was remarkable."

Department of Internal Affairs passports manager David Philp said Selwyn's sentence for passport fraud was justified.

"Often, as in this case, the criminal has used the name of a dead baby to obtain a false passport. This is very distressing for the bereaved family."

- NZPA

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