Candidate in fresh bid for secrecy

By Jared Savage

The identity of a Super City candidate charged with forgery to influence the election remains secret, despite two judges saying there are no grounds for name suppression.

The South Auckland candidate and his alleged accomplice, whose name is also suppressed, were jointly charged with forging change of address forms after a police investigation into hundreds of voters enrolled in Auckland. He has denied any wrongdoing.

His bid for name suppression was rejected by Judge Heather Simpson in the Manukau District Court when he was charged on Tuesday, but he appealed against the ruling.

That appeal was dismissed by Justice John Priestley last night after the police and the Herald opposed name suppression in a two-hour hearing.

Justice Priestley said Judge Simpson was right to decline suppression for a candidate accused of interfering with the integrity of the electoral process, as it would be "wrong in principle".

Not publishing his name would cast suspicion on other candidates in the ward - the name of which has also been suppressed.

"The damage to other candidates could be considerable," the judge said.

"The interests of justice demand the publication of the name to remove the taint of suspicion from other candidates."

But the candidate's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, is now seeking leave to challenge the ruling in the Court of Appeal, so interim name suppression continues.

It will expire at midday today unless the Court of Appeal decides to hear the argument.

Super City polling closes at midday tomorrow.

Justice Priestley said he believed it was unlikely the Court of Appeal would hear the challenge, as Mr Mansfield would have to identify the public interest in keeping the name secret.

Mr Mansfield said his client had the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Publication of unproven allegations would damage his reputation and affect his election chances.

He said that if his client was elected tomorrow, his political opponents could seek a judicial review which could annul the result.

Political rivals have two options under the Local Electoral Act to challenge the results once an official count is declared on October 18, Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske told the Herald.

Candidates had three days to apply for a judicial recount of votes before a judge.

Or a candidate had 21 days to apply for a judicial inquiry, in which a judge would look at a particular aspect of the election.

A judicial inquiry could lead to a new election for the local board, ward or even the mayoralty if it was a close result, said Mr Ofsoske.

Even if the identity of the candidate is made public today, it is too late for those who cast postal votes for him.

Postal votes had to be mailed by Wednesday to be sure of being received by the deadline.

Only voters who intend to deliver their ballot papers in person have time to consider their vote before polling closes tomorrow at noon.

Both accused men are on bail, with conditions, and police say further charges are likely.

The Herald last month exposed the alleged attempt to influence the election by revealing two properties in which nearly 90 voters have been enrolled.

The following week, 306 voters were removed from the electoral roll. It is understood some lived as far away as Tauranga, Hamilton and Hastings.

More than 40 police officers, led by Detective Inspector Mark Gutry, are investigating the case.

Police have not ruled out further arrests.

- NZ Herald

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