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Sir Ngatata Love sentenced to jail

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/10/2016

Sir Ngatata Love has been sentenced to two years and six months in jail over a $1.7 million fraud involving a Wellington property development.

Prosecutors had been calling for Love to spend up to five-and-a-half years behind bars after he was found guilty of obtaining property by deception in September, following a three-week trial.

But in sentencing submissions on Thursday Love's lawyer Colin Carruthers, QC, said medical experts warned prison would affect his physical wellbeing.

Love suffers from dementia and a heart condition.

He instead said home detention was the preferred sentence option, backed by Love's grandson Tyrone, who asked that he be allowed to return to his daughter's home to be cared for and rehabilitated by family who felt responsible for his crime.

The fraud occurred in 2006 and 2007 when Love was chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust.

On their behalf he reached an agreement with developers about a site in Pipitea Street, Wellington which included a personal payment of $3 million that was not disclosed to the trust.

The funds were transferred into an account set up by Love's partner Lorraine Skiffington with the intention of using it to pay the mortgage on their Plimmerton foreshore home.

"I don't know what kind of influence she had, but the fact she must have had some influence is the only inference to be drawn after you led such a blameless life in the past. What you cannot escape is Ms Skiffington was not a trustee," Justice Lang said.

Charges against Skiffington have been permanently stayed because of her own health problems.

Justice Lang said Love was entitled to a 30 percent discount, or 18 months, for his historical contributions to Maoridom.

"For more than 40 years you have devoted yourself selflessly" to Maori development, the judge said. "Those actions make you an inspirational leader in Maoridom so you are entitled to very significant credit for that."

Love's health conditions merited a further discount of nine months, the judge said.

Justice Lang chose not to give a further discount which would make Love eligible for home detention, saying the sentence was designed to be a deterrent and that he didn't see Love acknowledged the damage he had caused.

"I do not see any remorse for what has occurred," he said.

Love's lawyer, Colin Carruthers QC, said he had been given instructions to appeal a sentence of imprisonment and applied for bail pending that appeal, which was declined.

The Court of Appeal can hold a hearing on Nov. 14, and Justice Lang said he will reconsider his decision if new evidence becomes available.

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