In the NZ Herald this morning, political editor Audrey Young had an opinion piece entitled “Conviction delay blindsided Act MP“. She notes that John Banks had a plan prepared if and when he was committed to trial, the plan being to step down as ACT leader and announce his retirement come the next election. She then writes:
He was committed for trial and he duly resigned. It was well thought through and executed.
Not so for the verdict.
The fact that he did not have a plan ready last Thursday suggests he quite reasonably had prepared for only two possibilities: acquittal, or being forced out of his seat that day with a conviction.
The decision by the judge to delay a ruling on any conviction until sentencing on August 1 took everybody by surprise and complicated Banks’ options.
Except that the Judge didn’t simply make a surprise decision to delay entering a conviction until sentencing on 1 August. Mr Banks’ lawyer specifically asked for that to happen, so that an application for a discharge without conviction could be made, based on Mr Banks’ instructions to his lawyer. I find it difficult to believe that a QC would have failed to advise Mr Banks that a discharge without conviction application almost always requires affidavit evidence regarding the consequences of a conviction and written legal submissions regarding the gravity of the offending.
And leading up to the delivery of Justice Wylie’s judgment, it’s not as if there wasn’t discussion on the interweb about whether Mr Banks would apply for a discharge without conviction if found guilty. Obviously though, such discussion completely bypassed the NZ Herald.