MP used dead child's birth certificate

09:22, Sep 15 2010

ACT leader Rodney Hide says it was "horrific" for one of his MPs to use a dead baby's identity to get a false passport, but he is standing by his hard-line law and order spokesman.

David Garrett revealed in Parliament how he used the plot of the novel The Day of the Jackal to fake a passport.

Garrett told MPs that he took the identity of a child who was born about the same time as him, but who had died young, to obtain the passport in 1984.

Today's revelation comes after Garrett confirmed he had an assault conviction relating to a brawl outside a bar in Tonga in 2002. He was fined $10 for that incident, in which he had his jaw broken in two places after being hit from behind by a top psychiatrist.

Mr Hide, who is in Hong Kong, was interviewed tonight on TV One's CloseUp programme and asked whether he considered stealing a dead baby's identity to get a false passport was a harmless prank.

"No. It's horrific. It's horrific for the country because of issues of citizenship and security and it's horrific for the family and the mother who was affected," he said.

Mr Hide said Mr Garrett told him about it before he entered Parliament, and had said he didn't believe he could become an MP.

"I said 'look, you've turned your life around'...I hadn't met anyone who was more passionate and knew more about what we should do to get tough on crime," Mr Hide said.

The party leader later issued a statement saying Mr Garrett made "a terrible mistake" 26 years ago.

"While this does not excuse his actions or behaviour, this matter has been dealt with by the courts," Mr Hide said.

"The issues that have arisen in the media this week do not impair his ability to make a difference as a Member of Parliament."

On television, Mr Hide said he had to take responsibility for the issue not being previously made public, because he had known about it.

Mr Hide said MPs did not typically stand up and reveal all the mistakes they had made in their lives, and revealed that when he was a young man working on an oil rig he had been arrested for being drunk at Heathrow Airport, charged and fined five pounds.

Garrett said in Parliament this afternoon that the identity deception was uncovered in 2005 during a wide police investigation into false passports, which was sparked by the bid by Israeli spies to get false New Zealand passports.

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"Twenty six years ago, while living a very different life, I foolishly undertook what I naively saw as a harmless prank, one that was to later have repercussions both for me personally and for others who did not deserve to be hurt by my foolish actions.

"Using a method made known by the publication of the novel Day of the Jackal, I obtrained the birth certificate of a child born around the time I was born, but who died in infancy. I used this birth certificate to obtain a passport in that child's name," Garrett told Parliament.

The Day of the Jackal, published in 1971, is a thriller novel by English writer Frederick Forsyth, about a professional assassin who is contracted by a French terrorist group to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. The assassin obtains several false passports as part of the plot.

"To this day, I cannot explain the rationale behind my actions, except to say I was simply curious to see whether such a thing could be done.

"I never used the passport for any purpose. It duly expired never having been used and I later destroyed it."

Garrett told Parliament he had pleaded guilty to a charge of obtaining a passport by false pretences and was discharged without conviction after submissions from his lawyer.

"The court accepted that the consequences of a conviction for this offence would have consequences out of all proportion to the offending."

He told Parliament he was granted permanent name suppression, which was why he had been reluctant to answer media questions about the issue earlier today.

He said his preliminary legal advice was that neither he nor anyone else could comment about the case outside the House at this time.

He was attempting to have the suppression order varied or lifted so he could take media questions.

Following his arrest, he had written to the relatives of the dead child expressing his remorse.

"The regret I feel at the hurt I unwittingly caused the family of the deceased child is something I carry with me today and will continue to carry for the rest of my lfe. I cannot wind back the clock, but I sincerely wish that I could."

Earlier today, Garrett had avoided answering a question from TVNZ on whether he had ever pleaded guilty to any other charges in New Zealand.

Garrett replied to TVNZ, saying: "Pleaded guilty to any other charges in New Zealand... what are you talking about exactly?"

It was clarified for Garrett, a former barrister, that ONE News understood the MP had been discharged without conviction on a charge of creating a false identity. Garrett said: "I will comment on that later today."

GARRETT'S FULL STATEMENT:

"Twenty-six years ago while living a very different life I foolishly undertook what I naively saw as a harmless prank, one that was to later have repercussions both for me personally and others who did not deserve to be hurt by my thoughtless actions. Using a method made known by the publication of the novel Day of the Jackal I obtained the birth certificate of a child born around the time I was born but who died in infancy. I used this birth certificate to obtain a passport in that child's name. To this day I cannot explain the rationale behind my actions except to say I was simply curious to see whether such a thing could be done.

"I never used the passport for any purpose. It duly expired never having been used and I later destroyed it. Twenty-one years after I obtained the passport and many years after it had expired I was arrested along with a number of others following a police inquiry into passports which had been wrongfully obtained. This inquiry followed the obtaining by Israelis believed to be connected to that country's intelligence service of a number of passports using the same method I had used.

"I was duly put before the court and admitted obtaining a passport by false pretences. After submissions by my lawyer I was discharged without conviction. The court accepted that the consequences of a conviction for this offence would have consequences out of all proportion to the offending. I was also granted permanent name suppression. My reluctance to answer media questions was due to my uncertainty regarding the extent of coverage of the suppression order. My preliminary legal advice is that for this reason neither I nor anyone else may comment further on this matter outside of the house at this time.

"I am now seeking advice on whether the name suppression order can be varied or waived so that I may take media questions. I have made many mistakes in my life, none more so than this. At the time I committed this offence I gave no thought whatsoever to the effect it would have on others. Following my arrest I wrote letters of apology to the child's relatives expressing my sincere remorse for the pain I had caused them. The regret I feel at the hurt I unwittingly caused the family of the deceased child is something I carry with me today and will continue to carry for the rest of my life. I cannot wind back the clock but I sincerely wish that I could."

- with NZPA

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