High Court finds Banks guilty of knowingly filing false electoral return over Dotcom donations, but he will stay as MP supporting Govt until Parliament rises for election
The High Court has found ACT MP John Banks guilty of knowingly filing a false electoral return over donations from Kim Dotcom, but Banks is set to stay in Parliament until it rises at the end of July ahead of the September 20 election, which means the Government can continue to govern with a small majority until then.
Although Banks has been found guilty, he has yet to have a conviction entered against him until after August 1 and can therefore remain in parliament, said Gerry Brownlee, the National Government's Leader in the House.
Brownlee, told a news conference in Christchurch there was no need for an early election and that the Government still had enough support to govern.
"There's no conviction entered and there won't be a conviction entered until August 1, and Parliament is scheduled to lift for the General Election on July 31," Brownlee said.
"As I understand it, he is not convicted, therefore can remain in Parliament and exercise his vote," he said.
Brownlee denied the potential for a Banks conviction was the reason for the Prime Minister's choice of a September 20 election date. He referred to the Prime Minister's consideration of G20 meetings in November, school holidays and the timing of rugby tests.
Banks is expected to apply for a discharge without conviction at his sentencing on August 1. Justice Edwin Wylie ordered a pre-sentencing report and a report on the suitability of home detention.
New Zealand's Parliamentary rules state that a Parliamentarian can be removed if convicted of an offence punishable by more than two years in prison.
Labour Leader David Cunliffe said the Government had been propped up by a "corrupt politician."
“John Key turned a blind eye to John Banks, refusing to read the Police report which ultimately led to this prosecution. The Prime Minister has wilfully ignored the case against the MP for Epsom because he was prepared to have his Government propped up by someone who has acted illegally," Cunliffe said.
The Green Party called for Banks to leave Parliament.
“John Key’s coalition is reliant on a criminal,” Green spokesman Gareth Hughes said. “It is completely unacceptable for John Key to continue to rely on John Bank’s vote in the period running up to his sentencing. If John Banks won’t resign, John Key must rule out working with him," Hughes said.
“John Key gifted John Banks the seat of Epsom, then looked the other way when the evidence started piling up against him. John Banks may be guilty of a criminal offence, but John Key is guilty of wilfully remaining ignorant as the evidence stacked up against him," he said.
(Updated with more detail, reaction)