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Ngatata Love sentencing delayed over health concerns

Thursday 06 October 2016 10:26 AM

Ngatata Love sentencing delayed on concern about health impacts of prison

By Sophie Boot

Oct. 6 (BusinessDesk) - Former Treaty negotiator Ngatata Love's sentencing over his dealings with property developers while chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust has been delayed as his legal counsel consults his doctors about the effect prison could have on his health.

Yesterday, Love's QC Colin Carruthers gave a sentencing submission to the judge containing doctors' reports, where concerns were expressed about the effect a sentence of imprisonment would have on Love's physical wellbeing.

The judge said he had not been prepared to conclude sentencing until Corrections gave an indication of the healthcare that would be available to Love in prison. Corrections sent the judge a comprehensive report on this which was received at 9:50 this morning.

"Understandably Mr Carruthers wishes to receive medical advice from Love's doctors," the judge said.

Last month, Justice Graham Lang found Love guilty of obtaining significant sums by deception after the month-long hearing in Wellington's High Court. The charges came from an investigation into a $1.5 million payment from a land developer into a trust controlled by Love's partner, Lorraine Skiffington, which was then used to repay a property loan on a Plimmerton house he and Skiffington co-owned. It was the first installment of what was intended to be a $3 million payment.

In that judgment, Justice Lang said he was satisfied Love knew about all of the transactions including the lease agreement, the services agreement, and the house purchase, and he was instrumental in setting up the early transactions.

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Love's dementia and probable Alzheimers did not prevent the judge from taking into account his evidence in his fraud trial. His medical conditions were suppressed throughout the trial, but that suppression was lifted with the verdict.

During the trial, the defence called Love's doctor, Anthony Duncan, a forensic psychiatrist in Wellington, to give evidence on Love's impairment. Duncan said Love had dementia and had at times appeared "overloaded" during questioning from the Crown and his own lawyers, and it was likely the impairment meant Love couldn't process the questions he was being asked in order to respond to them appropriately. However, the judge ultimately determined his condition had no great bearing on the case.

When delivering the judgment, Justice Lang agreed not to enter a conviction before sentencing, at the Carruthers.

The verdict marked a fall from grace for the Wellington insider who was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Maori in 2008, later upgraded to a knighthood, and who was able to call up high-profile character witnesses during the trial. He was said to be a close confidante of Helen Clark on Maori issues when she was prime minister.

Love had sheeted the blame home to Skiffington, who he claimed had acted without his knowledge, and also blamed Shaan Stevens, a consultant who worked alongside Skiffington and Love.

Skiffington was also charged but has been granted a permanent stay due to her ill health, while Ngatata Love's son Matene Love had already pleaded guilty to accepting a secret commission.

Ngatata Love's sentencing has been delayed until tomorrow afternoon. Some character witnesses are giving evidence this morning.

(BusinessDesk)

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