Detention for Sikh leader
A leader of New Zealand's Sikh community has been sentenced to five months' community detention and 200 hours of community service for forging election documents in a bid to win a local body election three years ago.
Labour Party member, Justice of the Peace and Sikh leader Daljit Singh, 43, was found guilty in the High Court in Auckland of two charges of dealing with forged documents.
He had changed residential addresses to show that people from places such as Timaru and Tauranga appeared to live in the area of the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board in Auckland.
Singh, who was an unsuccessful candidate in the first Auckland super-city election in 2010, was found not guilty of 18 other counts of the same charge.
The charges carried a maximum jail term of 10 years.
Six men were found guilty after the jury trial last year, including Gurinder Atwal, 40, who was found guilty on 13 charges and Malkeet Singh on six charges.
The other three men were found guilty on a single charge each.
At sentencing on Wednesday, Justice Mark Woolford said these were the first cases of electoral fraud convictions in New Zealand and told Daljit Singh he could have faced 12 months in jail.
After reviewing submissions he sentenced Singh to community detention and community work.
The judge said there was a cultural context to Singh's offending.
"Your offending cannot be divorced from your culture and community."
It was common within the community to help each other by filling in forms and to sign forms for others.
But in New Zealand a high value was placed on individual autonomy and voting was on the individual, not family or others.
Justice Woolford said the case had "caused great damage to the Sikh community" and deep divisions.
"You have much to repair in your community."
The judge said Gurinder Singh was one of the two most culpable offenders.
He said he could have been liable to 14 months in jail but sentenced him to six months' community detention and 200 hours' community work on each charge to be served concurrently.
Malkeet Singh was sentenced to three months' community detention and 200 hours' community work.
Paramjit Singh, 51, convicted on one charge, was sentenced to 300 hours' community work.
Mandeep Singh, 31, convicted on one charge, was sentenced to 200 hours' community work.
Virender Singh, 42, convicted on one charge, received 200 hours' community work.
- Fairfax NZ News