My dear brother Guyon has pinched a few lines off me over the years, so I'm going to nick one of his: The only testimony Brian Henry could have delivered before the privileges committee today that was less credible is if Winston Peters' lawyer had simply said: "My dog ate it.''
New Zealand First insiders and Peters himself had talked tough over Henry's recall to the committee this morning, claiming to some journalists that the lawyer would provide evidence this morning that refuted Owen Glenn's version of events. He did nothing of the sort.
Indeed, everything Henry said and offered this morning in the way of evidence simply corroborated Glenn's version of events. Henry has now changed his testimony from his last appearance and accepts that the mystery "my client'' in his email was indeed Peters. He also accepts that Peters spoke to Glenn, and that Peters then called him immediately afterwards, and that immediately after that he emailed Glenn with his bank account number.
Indeed the only thing Henry does not accept is what this trail of hard evidence points to: that Peters asked Glenn for money. Henry says that wouldn't have happened because, if it had, he would have been very mad with Peters because that wasn't the way things were done between them.
Henry claims he called Glenn in either late November or early December to ask for money. But he has no record of the conversation, and no phone logs to prove it. He claims that when Peters phoned him on December 14 to say he'd just been speaking to Glenn, that provided a "memory jog" for him to follow up his earlier conversation about money with Glenn.
His memory jog consisted of a one-and-a-half-line email to Glenn containing little more than a bank account number. If it was a follow-up to an earlier request for money, it would have to be one of the rudest in the history of political donations. Henry does not strike me as a rude man.
So just to recap, this much is now agreed by everyone:
At 1.26pm on December 14, Glenn called Peters. The call lasted 6.41 minutes.
At 1.33pm on December 14, less than a minute after putting down the phone, Peters called Henry. That call lasted 6.10.
At 1.40pm on December 14, 40 seconds later, Henry emailed Glenn. He wrote: "Further to your discussion with my client at 1.30 NZT I provide my bank details as ASB a/c xxxxxxxxxxxxx [I've omitted the actual number]. Regards, Brian Henry, Barrister, Auckland.
Accepting that we're not going to get a tape of the conversation between Glenn and Peters, this sequence of events is the closest thing we have. And it's fairly compelling circumstantial evidence. Henry has acted in enough court cases to know that juries must sit and consider the weight of evidence provided by the prosecution before deciding whether the case has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
In my opinion, Henry offered doubt today but it was not reasonable.
Will this finally be enough for Clark to sack Peters? I doubt it. I think she will again say there is conflicting evidence, and that she will wait for the privileges committee to make its findings.
But don't hold your breath. As I've said before, I don't think the committee has to rule on who is telling the truth. I think it can get away with saying it makes no finding on this. Instead, it will say that it is clear Peters did receive a gift and that it should have been declared, even if he did not know about it as was claimed. It will say that in future such donations to legal expenses should be declared, and that MPs' lawyers should be aware of this.
Peters will receive his judgment on election day.
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