Taito Phillip Field jailed for six years

BY DAVID GADD
Last updated 15:40 06/10/2009

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Disgraced former MP Taito Phillip Field's jail sentence shows no one is above the law, Labour and National politicians say.

Field has been jailed for six years, with the sentencing judge saying his offending threatened the foundation of democracy and justice.

In August the former Mangere MP was found guilty of 11 charges of bribery and corruption and 15 charges of attempting to obstruct or pervert the course of justice.

The charges were laid after he used Thai tradesmen to do work on his properties in Samoa and New Zealand in return for giving them immigration assistance.

Justice Rodney Hansen gave Field four years jail for the 11 counts of bribery and corruption.

He also gave two years for the 15 charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, and the judge declared the four and two years will be cumulative, meaning that Field will spend a total six years in jail.

Prime Minister John Key said the trial, conviction and sentencing of Field reflected badly on Parliament.

Mr Key told reporters he did not want to comment on the sentence itself.

"What I can say is the whole event has been a very sorry saga and I think, although it was an isolated incident, it reflects badly on the New Zealand Parliament," he said.

"And at the end of the day it's going to reflect badly on the Labour Party and they're just going to have to accept that."

Speaker Lockwood Smith pursued Field as an opposition MP. He asked then immigration minister David Cunliffe more than 400 questions over the Field affair, drilling into contradictions and querying answers.

Dr Smith today said he was saddened that a former MP and minister had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

"It demonstrates that all members of Parliament are accountable for their actions and that none of us are above the law," he said through a spokesman.

Deputy Labour Leader Annette King commented on her former colleague in a similar vein: "This sentence demonstrates that all New Zealanders are equal under the law.

"Taito Phillip Field has been judged by his peers. He must now serve the sentence handed down in the Auckland High Court."

She said the party would not be commenting further.

OFFENDING 'INTOLERABLE'

On the bribery charges, Justice Hansen said conduct of this kind was intolerable in our society and threatened the institution at the foundation of democracy and justice.

On the perversion of justice charges, Justice Hansen said Field had made an elaborate and careful attempt to stop justice.

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Justice Hansen said it would have been a stiffer sentence, but he gave Field "generous credit" for his previous good record of work within the community; the disgrace and humiliation he had endured and would continue to endure; and the financial cost to him.

In his sentencing, Justice Hansen acknowledged Field was highly respected in the community but said it was "not possible to give undiminished weight" to Field's character. 

And he said Field had let people down who had trusted him.

"You breached that trust and undermined the very institutions it was your duty to uphold."

He quoted US President John Kennedy to Field saying: "From those to whom much is given, much is required."

'TOUGH PENALTY'

Field's defence lawyer Paul Davison said: "Six years is a tough penalty for someone like Mr Field. He was prepared for a term of imprisonment and he was well aware that was a prospect.

"I've spoken to him, he is a strong man, he's composed."

Field's wife Maxine said: "Our hearts go out to Taito."

She said she knew there were still a lot of people out there who loved and supported her husband.

When asked for his view on the sentence when leaving court, Cousin Lavilavi Taito said: "Too long."

The sentencing was momentarily disrupted by a Maori sovereignty protester, who told the judge he himself would be charged with treason.

Police escorted the man out of the courtroom and Field was led away to the cells. There were cries of "be strong, Phillip" from he packed public gallery.

Earlier, Crown prosecutor Simon Moore has said the disgraced former MP was sophisticated in his offending, which became more extravagant and audacious over three years.

Mr Moore said Field attempted to pervert the course of justice in an extensive and highy manipulative way to escape police and a special investigation.

Mr Moore suggested Field was still not accepting what he had done and questioned his remorse.

The Crown had sought a sentence of ten years' jail.

Field's defence lawyer, Paul Davison, said his offending was not systemic but the result of a haphazard series of events.

Mr Davison said the case had taken a financial toll on Field.

He had been left without resources and assets. He had a sense of shame and genuine remorse but did not accept he had done everything he was found guilty of.

Mr Davison said that Field's offending showed a lack of sophistication, in contrast with the Crown's contention that it had been audacious and extravagant.

The court was presented with hundreds of testimonials from Field supporters speaking of his good deeds and asking for leniency.

- with NZPA

- Stuff

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