Forgery sentence slashed, man to keep job

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 14/01/2013

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A man with more than 150 dishonesty convictions - whose latest offending was to send fake emails as part of an attempted property purchase - has had his punishment reduced on appeal so he can keep his job.

In June, Brian Damien Hunter was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court to 12 months' home detention and 100 hours' community work, in relation to six emails he sent a woman.

Now the High Court has quashed that and ordered Hunter to serve six months' community detention in Hastings, where he will be subject to a 7pm to 7am daily curfew.

Justice David Collins said that would enable him to work.

"Hunter has worked on the building of a wireless network system for a company based in Marlborough and has received a proposal that could see him actively involved in that business."

A pre-sentence report prepared in November said Hunter's risk of reoffending would increase if he could not work and it recommended he serve a suspended sentence. A psychiatrist's report backed that up.

Justice Collins, however, said Hunter's offending was "troubling" and needed some sort of penalty.

Despite his hefty conviction list, between 1997 and 2009 he had lapsed only once - a 2001 fraud conviction.

His latest deception began between 2006 and 2009, when Hunter had contact with a Wellington lawyer. Emails from the law firm contained its logo in the header and footer.

From March 2009 to January 2010 Hunter sent to a woman six emails that used the header and footer from the lawyer. The emails were about a property purchase Hunter was trying to make but his fraud came unstuck when the woman, who had become suspicious, called the lawyer to find that the lawyer had no idea of the situation.

The court was told that a doctor's report said Hunter had post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other problems understood to include alcoholism.

Judge Gerard Lynch said Hunter could not be treated for those in prison and imposed home detention and community work.

Hunter's appeal to the High Court said "substantial facts relating to . . . the offender's character or personal history were not before the court imposing sentence".

Justice Collins said he based his decision to lighten the sentence on that, not on Hunter's other ground for appeal: That his punishment was excessive or inappropriate.

The judge also noted that Hunter had several letters of support, but it was unclear if the writers knew of his repeat offending.

Between 1975 and 2001 Hunter racked up 162 convictions.

This included a two-year jail term imposed in 1995 on 62 charges, mainly for obtaining credit by fraud and false pretences.

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Between 1992 and 1995 Hunter was bankrupt and during that time he failed to disclose to the Official Assignee property he stored and the 15 aliases he used to obtain credit from motels and rental car companies.

From October 1993 he posed as a businessman, used different names and pretended to work for different companies.

He obtained property worth $64,000 and credit worth $14,200.

In a separate fraud in 1994-95, he obtained $122,360 worth of property - mostly electronic, photographic and computer equipment - by pretending to work for fictitious companies, and used his knowledge of telecommunications services to commit the offences. Hunter could not be contacted for comment.

- Manawatu Standard

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