The Herald reports:
Act’s law and order spokesman, MP David Garrett, was convicted of assault in 2002 in Tonga, he confirmed last night.
Mr Garrett, who led the party’s “three strikes” policy on tougher sentencing for serious violent offences, has not publicly disclosed his conviction.
But Act leader Rodney Hide said Mr Garrett had disclosed it to him before he joined the Act list at No 5 for the 2008 election.
It was the right thing, to disclose it to the party. The issue is whether it should have been disclosed publicly.
Mr Garrett issued a statement giving his version of events after TV3’s Campbell Live last night revealed the conviction.
Mr Garrett, who worked as a lawyer in Tonga, said he was attacked outside a bar in Nuku’alofa by Dr Mapa Puloka, head of psychiatry at the local hospital.
Campbell Live claimed the altercation was over Dr Puloka’s former wife.
Mr Garrett said his own jaw had been broken in two places after he was attacked from behind.
He had returned to Middlemore in Auckland for treatment and then laid a complaint with the Tonga police. After Dr Puloka was charged with assault, he in turn laid a complaint of assault against Mr Garrett.
Mr Garrett denied the assault and produced two witnesses, the bar’s bouncers, at the trial but was convicted and fined $10.
He had immediately lodged an appeal and has yet to be given a reason as to why it has been delayed.
Dr Puloka was fined $100.
The fact Puloka’s fine was ten times greater than Garrett’s suggests he was the aggressor.
Many MPs have minor convictions but Mr Garrett’s non-disclosure is more relevant because crime is the primary focus of his parliamentary career.
If it was any other MP, then there would be little interest in a $10 fine. conviction. But considering the strong stand David has taken on law & order, it would have been wiser to reveal the conviction (and his side of the story) early on.
But that is the only criticism I would make. I don’t think it undermines the stance David has taken on law & order issues, and his commitment to tougher sentences.