Metiria Turei's frauds unlikely to end in jail time - lawyer

  • 05/08/2017

It's unlikely Metiria Turei will do time for her crimes, according to a barrister who deals with benefit fraud.

The Green Party co-leader has admitted to lying about her living situation in the 1990s so she could vote in another electorate and receive a higher benefit payout.

The admission, and new information that came to light over the past week, has seen Ms Turei rule herself out of a ministerial position should the Greens form part of the next Government.

While she's paid a heavy political price, Catriona MacLennan says it would be surprising if Ms Turei was criminally punished.

"Normally what [Ministry of Social Development authorities] do is go up to people to get the money back," she told Newshub.

"If it's a big amount of money, if it's gone on for a long time, if they think it's more serious and they think they've got the evidence, then they'll prosecute."

If she is convicted, Ms Turei could face up to seven years behind bars.

But when it comes to her lies to Work and Income, Ms MacLennan says all Ms Turei was trying to do was improve her and her child's life, and that's worth celebrating.

"She was parenting and getting a law degree - isn't that exactly what we want people to do? What she was trying to do was get a qualification so she could be independent and support her child."

She says too much time has passed for a prosecution to have much chance of success.

"It would be very difficult because prosecutions are to a criminal standard, which means the Ministry of Social Development would need to prove it beyond reasonable doubt, and it would be quite hard to find evidence after all these years."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said Ms Turei made the right call in forgoing a ministerial spot, which would have been very likely otherwise in a Labour-Greens Government.

Ms Turei says she will keep up the fight for the poor regardless.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said he never asked Mr Turei to resign.