Field likely to challenge laying of charges

Last updated 00:00 05/10/2007

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Independent MP Taito Phillip Field is likely to fight a High Court decision allowing police to lay bribery and corruption charges against him.
Read full court decision

Chief High Court Judge Tony Randerson today released his decision on a Crown application in August to lay 15 charges relating to work done on seven houses Mr Field owns in Auckland, Tonga, Wellington and Samoa.

Crown prosecutors said Mr Field knowingly acted improperly to have the work, worth tens of thousands of dollars, done on his properties.

Judge Randerson said in his decision there was a strong public interest in allowing the allegations to be "thoroughly tested in a court of law".

"There can be no question that the allegations made against the respondent are extremely serious in that they strike at the heart of the administration of government and the integrity of Members of Parliament," he said.

Police today welcomed the decision and Detective Superintendent Malcolm Burgess said he hoped to have charges laid in the next fortnight.

But Mr Field's lawyer Satiu Simativa Perese said police needed to allow a reasonable window of time so his client could consider an appeal, which was highly likely given the seriousness of the charges.

"It may well go as far as the Supreme Court," he said on Radio New Zealand.

Mr Field said he was very disappointed at the decision, but an appeal had always been inevitable.

"We were hoping the judge would see the arguments that we put forward, but that's his interpretation of the law and although we are disappointed I guess we knew before his decision that either party would likely appeal to the Court of Appeal and ultimately the Supreme Court."

He said the decision in no way indicated any guilt on his part and he continued to maintain his complete innocence.

He said he would continue as an MP while the "legal battle" continued.

He accepted the decision could delay his ability to join a united Christian party, but it was possible he could form his own party in the meantime and coalesce with the larger party later on.

He and his legal team would discuss an appeal early next week.

Mr Field said police were drawing incorrect conclusions from the information before them in the evidence they presented to the court at the August hearing.

But Crown prosecutor Simon Moore said the decision was an indication there was a case to answer.

"It doesn't amount to a prima facie case but it does go so far as to indicate that there is a certain level of strength and sufficiency of the evidence," he said on Radio New Zealand.

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Mr Burgess said if police laid charges the next step would be a depositions hearing.

Justice Randerson said there were several criteria that needed to be fulfilled for leave to prosecute to be granted.

Among them was the strength of the evidence, which he felt was sufficient.

There was no question Mr Field had offered immigration assistance to immigrants who had worked on his houses.

The issues for trial were whether that work was undervalued, as alleged by the Crown, and whether Mr Field appreciated this.

He said a trial could hang on the reliability and credibility of the Thai immigrants involved.

"Their evidence as a whole is substantial and draws some cogency from the similar pattern of their accounts and the support which the witnesses give to each other in evidential terms."

He said several of the witnesses now said they gave false evidence to the Ingram inquiry at Mr Field's request.

He said the Crown had also needed to prove the application was in good faith and no improper pressure had been brought to prosecute. Prosecution also needed to be in the public interest.

Justice Randerson said there was no assertion of improper pressure to prosecute and the issues in question were undoubtably in the public interest.

- With NZPA

- Stuff

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