A now-bankrupt property developer who was jailed for duping a family into buying properties from his company should instead serve home detention, his lawyer has told the High Court.

Glenn Cooper bought properties at mortgagee sales and sold them to buyers who were under pressure to consolidate debt, the Serious Fraud Office said when the developer admitted five dishonesty charges in January last year.

Cooper, now in his early 40s, used false sale-and-purchase agreements to conceal the fact that the properties were actually owned by companies associated with him. He also forged signatures on the agreements and added false details to loan applications.

Cooper was jailed for 19 months by a Manukau District Court judge last November and ordered to pay $25,000 in reparations.


Cooper's lawyer, Tudor Clee, appealed that sentence yesterday in the High Court at Auckland, where he submitted that his client was entitled to a higher discount for remorse and his early guilty plea than that given in the District Court.

Clee said the sentencing judge had placed too much emphasis on deterrence and denunciation and sought to align his client's case with other Serious Fraud Office prosecutions where home detention had been imposed.

Clee also said that Cooper's wife was due to have surgery, after which she would require her husband to care for her at home.

Justice Sarah Katz, who was hearing the appeal and reserved her decision, said she was "nervous" that Clee was broadening the discussion to the full merits of the sentence given and that it was necessary to identify an error in the approach taken by the District Court judge.

SFO lawyer Todd Simmonds opposed the appeal and said Clee must demonstrate the sentencing judge made an error in exercising his discretion. The test was not whether another judge on another day may have reached a different view, he said.

The SFO lawyer said the argument around the discounts given to Cooper during his sentencing was inviting the High Court to embark on a tinkering exercise that was "entirely inappropriate".