Field’s appeal

June 22nd, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Lawyers for jailed former MP Taito Phillip Field have begun their submissions in the Supreme Court this morning.

Field is serving a six-year jail term after he was found guilty of 11 bribery and corruption charges as an MP. It related to having Thai nationals carry out work on his properties in return for immigration assistance between November 2002 and October 2005.

He was also found guilty of 15 of 23 charges of wilfully attempting to obstruct or pervert the course of justice.

This morning his lawyer Helen Cull, QC, opened his appeal to the country’s highest court.

Cull said Field’s actions did not amount to bribery, and that New Zealand law lacked the provision to properly deal with illegal gratuities accepted by MPs in their official capacities.

She argued something more than a link between a reward offered as a “thank you” and something he had done in his role as an MP, was required to prove corruption.

She said some improper or illicit action was required, and his processing the Thai workers’ immigration applications in the usual way did not amount to this.

I don’t think you can call the processing the usual way. The stats showed that Field’s ministerial colleagues basically rubber-stamped any application he put forward.

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19 Responses to “Field’s appeal”

  1. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    I see the Dominion Post describe Field as the ‘MP for Spring Hill’!

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  2. nasska (10,627 comments) says:

    Seems like a case of gross injustice……we’ll get Water Woman on to it immediately.

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  3. Manolo (13,339 comments) says:

    Once a crook, always a crook. Labour’s Field deserves to rot in jail.

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  4. Chris2 (754 comments) says:

    It’s an utter disgrace that the media give any attention to reporting Mrs Field’s comment, especially in a manner that continues to paint a picture of Field being innocent and hard-done-by.

    This man was the first NZ politician convicted of bribery and corruption (11 charges), but these words “bribery” and “corruption” each only appear once within the entire article.

    I hope the Parole Board later this year note his lack of remorse. The first step for any application for parole is a recognition by the offender of their crime.

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  5. AG (1,760 comments) says:

    “I don’t think you can call the processing the usual way. The stats showed that Field’s ministerial colleagues basically rubber-stamped any application he put forward.”

    That’s not what is meant here. The appeal is based on the fact that Field treated the Thai applications in “the usual way” he treated any other applications, hence there was no quid pro quo corrupt motive behind his actions. Or, to put it another way, if he was only in the game of helping people for the tiling, etc, then he wouldn’t have helped out all the other folks who didn’t provide such work … so the presence or absence of benefit makes no difference to his actions.

    Note what this claim admits – he received the tiling work and that this was in response to his help (i.e. he benefited from the Thai’s actions). However, the claim is that this help was not “bribery” because he would have helped them anyway (thus the work bought no service), and it is not a crime in NZ to corruptly benefit from your actions as an MP (where that benefit is not a “bribe”)! So, even if Field were to win in the Supreme Court, it hardly would be vindication … to say nothing of the fact that the perverting the course of justice convictions remain.

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  6. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    Is it just me or does Philip Field look just like Thulsa Doom?

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  7. david (2,535 comments) says:

    I’m confused. I was always led to understand that Parliament is the “highest court in the land”

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  8. Chris2 (754 comments) says:

    The other issue that has never been discussed is the propriety of any politician representing those unlawfully in NZ.

    Should taxpayer-funded MP’s be lobbying on behalf of people who are not even “constituents” in the widest definition of the word?

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  9. nasska (10,627 comments) says:

    Chris2

    I think you may find that most of the dodgy applications are sponsored by people who are in NZ legally. The typical case would be someone taking a member of their extended family to seek the MP’s help.

    Therefore it could easily be argued that the MP is responding to his/her constituents.

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  10. Elaycee (4,299 comments) says:

    Whilst I note that Field’s lawyer has opened by questioning the provision in Law to properly deal with illegal gratuities accepted by MPs in their official capacities, the salient point in the reports was the reminder: “He was also found guilty of 15 of 23 charges of wilfully attempting to obstruct or pervert the course of justice.” Indeed, from my recollection of the original Court case, I felt the correct decision was reached at the time.

    However, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with the appeal process if I knew that all costs of Appeals (the cost of the QC representing the appellant together with all Crown costs), would be borne by the unsuccessful party.

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  11. AG (1,760 comments) says:

    “I’m confused. I was always led to understand that Parliament is the “highest court in the land””

    It’s a euphemism. A parliamentary enactment is the highest law in the land, so Parliament can (in theory) override any judgment of any court. But short of this, the Supreme Court has the last word on the outcome of any given case.

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  12. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    Excellent timing by Field to get himself back in the news coming up to the election. He must really want to shaft Labour. Nearest he ever got to doing something noble ( although purely out of self-interested spite).

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  13. backster (2,076 comments) says:

    Two certainties irrespective of the decision. Helen CULL will win. The taxpayer will lose.

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  14. fruitshop (44 comments) says:

    If Field gets off on a technicality, will the taxpayer have to pay his compensation?

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  15. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    Field’s appeal

    I don’t think he has any.

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  16. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    “Two certainties irrespective of the decision. Helen CULL will win. The taxpayer will lose.”

    If she is doing this on private instructions then she will do fine, but no better than for any other case she would take. Moreover, the taxpayer wouldn’t suffer any loss because it wouldn’t cost them anything.

    If she is doing it on legal aid, then she will be taking a huge hit in income (legal aid top rate is $159 plus GST per hour down from a rate of at least $600 plus per hour not incl. GST). That is, of course, gross income and before tax and expenses.

    Now, backster, please tell me how, if the taxpayer is footing the bill, getting the services of a QC for at least $400 an hour less than normal rate is in any way an example of the taxpayer losing?

    fruitshop: “If Field gets off on a technicality, will the taxpayer have to pay his compensation?”

    He can’t get off on a technicality. He only has leave to appeal some of his convictions. Most of them have been confirmed by the CA. So even if this appeal is allowed, he wouldn’t be eligible for compensation.

    Edit: Anyway, even if he is successful, the result could in no way be called a technicality. The SC only hears cases of legal importance, so by hearing this appeal they are saying there are in fact serious legal issues in question.

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  17. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    oops, I meant to say “legal aid top rate is $159 plus GST per hour down from Helen Cull’s likely rate of at least $600 plus per hour not incl. GST” The legal aid rates have never been THAT high!

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  18. AG (1,760 comments) says:

    “If Field gets off on a technicality, will the taxpayer have to pay his compensation?”

    In addition to what F E Smith said, if the Supreme Court overturns his conviction, there’s a good chance they’d order a retrial because his complaint is that the jury was misdirected as to the elements of the offence he faced. That said, the Court also might figure that as he’ll likely be out on parole later this year, a new trial after all this time isn’t necessary. But that wouldn’t make him “innocent” of the charges.

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  19. calendar girl (1,172 comments) says:

    F E Smith: “The SC only hears cases of legal importance, so by hearing this appeal they are saying there are in fact serious legal issues in question.”

    That’s what I understood to be the SC’s judicial scope. I would be extremely wary of a Supreme Court that sought to review factual evidence without seeing and hearing witnesses live in person.

    So why is QC Cull arguing that Field “processed immigration applications in the usual way”? Surely that is a question of fact, not of law. It seems as though she regards Field’s advocacy for several hundreds of immigration applications (around 500?) as “normal”. How could it be? Was evidence brought to the lower Courts to prove that it was normal behaviour for one MP to champion hundreds of immigration applications?

    One would expect an MP to be involved in supporting immigration applications on an exceptional basis, not as a matter of routine. The MP’s role is not that of an Immigration processing officer. If public servants actually processing application are constantly under pressure from MPs, how can they do their job independently and dispassionately in accordance with the law, leaving disgruntled applicants to use the formal review procedures if they choose to do so? Any departure from that base principle leaves the door open for a corrupt MP to seek to profit personally from his or her intervention.

    I don’t see any great principle of law involved here. If the contention is that hundreds of grateful constituents (and others) made spontaneous gifts to Field after he drove their applications through the system out of the kindness of his heart, forgive me if I am sceptical. Accepting that contention would pose some demanding questions about Field’s behaviour that ultimately resulted in his 15 convictions for wilfully attempting to obstruct or pervert the course of justice

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