Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Mansion's size hurdle for home jail

Failed finance company's director tells court she can stick to just half her house if it's too big for home detention.

Ann Butler's Remuera home. Photo / Richard Robinson
Ann Butler's Remuera home. Photo / Richard Robinson

The $6.8 million Remuera mansion where former finance company director Ann Butler is serving home detention is so big that probation staff were unsure if the whole house could be electronically monitored.

According to court documents, Butler said if this was the case, she would stay on only one side of the four-bedroom home, which has a theatre, a wine cellar, a library and a 15-metre pool.

Butler, a former director of Dominion Finance and North South Finance, pleaded guilty in May to misleading investors, who were owed more than $200 million when the companies collapsed.

Ann Butler. Photo / Richard Robinson
Ann Butler. Photo / Richard Robinson

The 64-year-old was sentenced in June to nine months' home detention, 80 hours' community work and told to pay $300,000 in reparation.

The Remuera property where Butler is serving that sentence has a capital value of $6.8 million, according to property valuation firm QV.

QV says the property is owned by Makuri Saunders Trustee Ltd, of which Companies Office records show Butler is the sole shareholder.

The mansion has a floor area of 487sq m. The average size of a New Zealand house in 2011, based on floor area, was 149sq m.

A person on home detention is electronically tracked by an ankle bracelet and a unit installed at his or her property. If the person leaves the detention address without the approval of their probation officer, an alert is triggered and a security guard is sent to the location.

Before Butler appeared in the High Court at Auckland for sentencing, her house was assessed for its suitability for home detention by the Department of Corrections.

The department's subsequent report said that overall, the address was appropriate for electronic monitoring. But the report, which a High Court judge gave the Herald access to this week, also noted:

"Given the large size of her house, electronic monitoring may not be able to cover the whole house. Ms Butler stated that should this be the case, she would be able to stay on one side of the house."

When Corrections was contacted yesterday about whether this was necessary, a spokeswoman said the department could not discuss individual offenders' cases

Butler did not want to speak to the Herald last night.

Housing problems for the finance companies' investors were of a different kind. In a statement filed with the court, an 86-year-old investor said he had planned to use the $100,000 he had with Dominion Finance to finance his move into a smaller home.

"I had planned to sell my home and move into a newer, smaller property with less maintenance. I needed the money I had invested with Dominion Finance Group to help fund the difference between what I sold my house for and the cost of the new house. That plan is now on hold," the investor said.

The man, who had invested with Dominion since the 1970s, said he had had to "tighten his belt" since its collapse and buy only necessities.

Dominion Finance receivers estimate investors will recover between 10c and 25c in the dollar, while North South investors are expected to get back between 65c and 70c in the dollar.

- NZ Herald

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