Chance to appeal dismissed

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 12:36 18/12/2013

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A director of failed finance firm National Finance has had his request for leave to appeal against his conviction dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Anthony Banbrook was sentenced in March to eight and a half months home detention and to pay reparations of $75,000 for making an untrue statement in a 2005 prospectus.

National Finance went into receivership in May 2006 owing $24.8 million to its more than 2000 investors.

Banbrook pleaded guilty but asked to appeal on the grounds that his plea was induced by a ruling "that was wrong in law".

He argued he had been left with no choice but to plead guilty, saying "substantial prejudice" had arisen from a denial of his earlier application for a stay in proceedings.

This was "because of death and unavailability of witnesses, and loss of company records during the period of delay after he was charged".

Banbrook was charged in 2008 but his guilty plea under the Securities Act was not made until June last year.

He said his decision not to proceed with a disputed-facts hearing and to accept the Crown's statement of facts at sentencing was the result of coercion by the Crown.

However, the Supreme Court, presided over by Justices John McGrath, William Young, and Terence Arnold, found no evidence of a miscarriage of justice.

They were satisfied that the Court of Appeal had been free to conclude there were no exceptional circumstances for the guilty plea to be set aside.

Banbrook had been able to defend the charge, and it was highly speculative as to whether the unavailable witnesses or lost minutes would have helped him.

The judges also found Banbrook had not been specific in his claim that the lapse of time had prejudiced his case.

He had had the help of senior counsel and an email exchange attached to his submissions "does not indicate that his decision was other than a considered acceptance of what was in his best interests".

"We do not accept that his submission of coercion is arguable," the ruling said.

National Finance founder Trevor Ludlow, a director and shareholder, was sentenced to six years and four months' jail. Ludlow's former partner and fellow director Carol Braithwaite was sentenced to 10 months' home detention.

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