Judges nearly increased Bridgecorp sentence
Convicted Bridgecorp director Peter Steigrad's home detention sentence was nearly increased to imprisonment after his non-appearance at a hearing last month showed he lacked remorse, the Court of Appeal says.
Steigrad was on holiday in the United Kingdom and Europe while his nine-month home detention sentence was suspended, pending an appeal to the second-highest court in the land.
Three Court of Appeal judges have today released their reasons for dismissing the appeal and ordering Steigrad to return from Europe immediately and back into home detention.
The court document reveals that Justices White, Heath and Fogarty called a hearing the day after Steigrad's original appeal was heard because of their dissatisfaction with him for not being in the country.
They considered lengthening his sentence or even changing it from home detention to imprisonment, in part because they believed the discount he received for remorse on his original sentence was too generous.
The judges agreed with Crown submissions that Steigrad's action in travelling to Europe "was inconsistent with his claims of remorse and contrition in respect of the Bridgecorp investors who lost substantial sums of money as a result of his failures as a director of the companies".
However the Crown did not seek any increase in sentence and the judges decided against the move, ordering Steigrad to return to New Zealand see out the remainder of his nine months' home detention.
Steigrad had travelled to the UK and Europe with his ill wife to see their daughter get married. He returned to home detention on August 29 and missed the wedding.
Steigrad's appeal said he should have received a lesser sentence than Bridgecorp chairman Bruce Davidson, who pleaded guilty to all charges he faced.
"The fact that Mr Steigrad may have been prepared to plead guilty to certain charges prior to trial was of no benefit when he did not in fact do so but instead went to trial on the basis of his not guilty pleas," the judges said.
"The short point is that Mr Steigrad was sentenced for the charges on which he was found guilty.
"It was always open to him to plead guilty to those charges he accepted and to contest those he did not.
"Had Mr Steigrad taken that course, he would have been entitled to some credit for the guilty pleas. But he did not do so."
The court also said any further humanitarian grounds for his appeal had disappeared when the judges found out about his overseas trip with his wife, who was said to be unable to travel.
"The difficulty with these submissions for Mr Steigrad was that whatever sympathy the Court might have had for his predicament, arising in particular from his understandable concern for his wife's medical condition, it was undermined when the Court discovered at the hearing of the appeal that not only had he left for Europe... but also that, notwithstanding his wife's medical condition, she had been able to travel with him to Europe for a relatively extended visit."
Both Davidson and Steigrad were charged with the same ten Securities Act charges relating to “misstatements in an advertisement or registered prospectus” of Bridgecorp.
Davidson pleaded guilty to all charges and was given a starting point sentence of three years and three months imprisonment before eventually getting a nine month home detention sentence.
Steigrad pleaded not guilty to all charges and was found guilty on six of them.
Steigrad’s starting point of three years imprisonment was discounted to nine months home detention, 200 hours community service and took into account his offer to repay $350,000 to investors.
- © Fairfax NZ News