Brian Henry's recovered memory

Last updated 12:27 16/09/2008

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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Joshua Teal   #1   12:39 pm Sep 16 2008

You said it in your last line Colin, "Peters will receive his judgment on election day."

Helen Clark doesn't have the guts to do the right thing and sack him - even though it will now cost her very little in political terms. On November 8 the NZ electorate will now do what Clark cannot. Winston Peters will be consigned to political history. He no longer has a place in the high echelons of NZ government.

Goodbye Sideshow-Peters.

Roscoe   #2   12:45 pm Sep 16 2008


Thanks, I asked you a few days ago to sift through the undisputed facts for us all, which you've now done. It's a pretty sad tale, & Brian Henry's good legal standing must now be in question.

You say that WP's defence doesn't stack up on grounds of "reasonable doubt". I thought the Privileges Committee only had to find on the grounds of "balance of probabilities".

WP is or should be toast. The Privileges Committee has more than enough evidence to produce a finding, & quickly. HC should move to sack WP if she has half a brain. Come on, it's time to end this charade. Anything less is acting spinelessly & would only produce votes for RH & JK. And while OG has been a grandstanding idiot at times, he deserves an apology from someone for having his integrity attacked & his sanity brought into question.

Rick Rowling   #3   12:52 pm Sep 16 2008

Has anyone noticed that despite all the conflicting evidence, Miss Clark <b>has</b> to accept the word of Peters as an MP i.e. that he mustn't be lying; but as soon as Key opens his mouth (e.g. about not working with Peters after the election) she asserts "he'll renege on that" - i.e. that he must be lying.

Some vague semblance of consistency would be nice.

blogaroo   #4   12:52 pm Sep 16 2008

"My dog ate it" - Absolute gold Colin! John Key showed great foresight to distance himself from this. He had decided after Peters got up a reporter in Singapore, vowing to come home and disclose all the parliment. When he did have his say he went on about the mad hatters tea party?

Peters has survived a long time in NZ politics but this may be the end.

Matt   #5   01:06 pm Sep 16 2008

Colin, I disagree with you regarding the privileges committee's options. Lying to this committee is a serious offence. Peters and Henry have fronted the committee with a story, but it's clear that they made it up, because when confronted with the evidence the story had to change. Now, that's not evidence of a deliberate lie, but it at the very least shows that neither Peters nor Henry have taken the process very seriously, and that has led Henry into making at least one false statement, now corrected.

Henry's further statement that they couldn't have discussed the donation because of the "chinese wall" bounces back on Peters, because the committee has heard evidence from Paul Moroney, clarified by a subsequent inteview, that he saw and overheard Peters approach and thank Glenn for the dosh <i>before dinner</i> at the Velas' do. I'm utterly biased against Peters; try as I may I can't see any flaws in this reasoning. Henry can claim that he didn't tell Peters about the donation, but that means the only person who can have done was Owen Glenn. Gotcha.

GPT   #6   01:18 pm Sep 16 2008

I only hope you are right that this election will be the last for Winston.

The real question for me is whether or not Clark's refusal to dump Peters will hurt her and Labour. An interesting suggestion I have read is that if she dumps Winston then the election is almost definately gone with National likely to have a majority (touch wood, feet in the air, spit in the wind and run around the block twice) on election date the Green/Prog/Labour/Winston coalition is the only way for Labour to get a fourth term.

Clark must be banking on the short term heat being worth a long term chance.

As has been noted that whilst the Winston saga has been enthralling for politcos in the grand scheme of things it is a sideshow. I would like to be wrong but I do not think "a vote for Labour is a vote for Winston" and vice versa will resonate with the masses.

Ned   #7   01:22 pm Sep 16 2008

So what of Brian Henry now? Shouldn't he at least be investigated by the law society on the basis he knew his client was breaking the law by knowing about and not declaring the donation, and doing nothing about it? Seems to me like a breach of his duties to the legal profession? Why should just Winston be accountable?

william   #8   01:24 pm Sep 16 2008

More to the point, Henry has just admitted he lied, several times over, when he said the "client" he referred to was not Mr Glenn. Now he says it was Mr Glenn ...... if our PM wants to believe a known liar then so be it.

Wal   #9   01:31 pm Sep 16 2008

How does the song go...

Uh Oh, Winnies in trouble, the privilege commitees gunna burst his bubble, yeah yeah. Oh Oh, Winnies in trouble, and Auntie Helen's running away at the double, yeah yeah.

jay   #10   01:36 pm Sep 16 2008

Poor Helen still cant make the rightn decision and sack Peters. Not surprising tho given her record and history and roots.

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