Forgery case: Name secrecy for candidate

By Jared Savage, Bernard Orsman

Photo / Greg Bowker
Photo / Greg Bowker

The identity of a Super City candidate charged with forging voting papers has been kept secret days before polling closes.

The male candidate from South Auckland was initially declined name suppression by a judge in Manukau District Court yesterday.

But his lawyer is appealing against the ruling, meaning his identity will remain hidden from voters for at least 48 hours.

Last night, Auckland City Mayor John Banks said the turn of events could have an impact on the integrity of the poll results.

"We need to make sure this mayoral election is not stolen," said Mr Banks, who believed the result was going down to the wire.

"I have always been extraordinarily suspicious of the high level of early voting in some parts of the city and the present system of voting leaves itself wide open to abuse."

Postal voting returns yesterday showed a pick-up in Mr Banks' strongholds of Auckland City and the North Shore and a slowdown in rival Len Brown's South Auckland stronghold.

Mr Brown, the Mayor of Manukau, who has supported the campaign of the charged candidate, yesterday said he was disappointed with the accused and anyone else who abused the democratic process.

"It's just not right and we all know it. Whatever the charges come down I will be totally in support of the police and the justice system doing their job to deliver a really strong message to all of our communities."

Asked if his hands were clean, Mr Brown said: "Absolutely."

The candidate was one of two men, aged 36 and 39, who appeared in the Manukau District Court charged with forgery after a police inquiry into alleged voter fraud.

Judge Heather Simpson granted interim name suppression to one of the men because he was not an election candidate, but declined an application from the second man because of the "strong public interest" in naming someone standing for election.

If name suppression were granted, the judge said, "naturally suspicion will fall on all the candidates, which is unfair. Other candidates may find themselves compromised. The election itself may be compromised".

But Judge Simpson was forced to grant interim suppression when the man's lawyer, Howard Lawry, said he would appeal against her ruling.

The identity of the Super City candidate will be kept secret until the appeal can be heard in the High Court. The Herald will join the police in opposing the suppression application.

On behalf of the police, Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey opposed suppression for the candidate. He said there was strong public interest in the name of a person accused of fraudulent activities affecting the electoral roll.

Mr Lawry said naming his client, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, would jeopardise his chances in the election.

Mr Lawry said that if his client's name was suppressed, the position of other candidates was protected.

This was because if he were elected, then found guilty as charged, the election result could be revoked.

Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske said that although a candidate had been charged with forging voter papers the election would carry on as normal.

Once the results were publicly declared, a candidate had three days to lodge a judicial recount application under the Local Electoral Act. A judge had 21 days to hear the application and make a ruling.

Both accused men were granted bail. They had to surrender their passports, and were barred from contacting each other, or police witnesses.

In announcing the arrests, Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said more charges would be laid against the men.

He said police, who had 40 officers on the case, had been working closely with the Electoral Enrolment Centre to "ensure a credible and democratic process in the local body election".

Mr Gutry did not rule out more charges against other people.

* North Shore police area commander Les Patterson has dismissed an allegation of bribery against the Shore Voice ticket, saying the claim by the Citizens & Ratepayers ticket fell "considerably short" of a breach of the bribery clause in the Local Electoral Act.

- NZ Herald

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