Sir Ngatata Love appeals prison sentence for fraud

Sir Ngatata Love (Supplied)
Sir Ngatata Love (Supplied)

Prominent Māori leader Sir Ngatata Love has launched an immediate appeal against a two year, six months prison sentence handed down for fraud on Friday.

Justice Graham Lang sentenced the former Wellington Tenths Trust chairman in the Wellington High Court, saying he needed to impose a deterrent sentence.

Love's lawyer Colin Carruthers QC immediately lodged an appeal, and applied for bail but this was declined.

He was due to be sentenced in the Wellington High Court on Thursday after being found guilty of obtaining property by deception, however a last minute report from the Department of Corrections concerning Love's healthcare postponed the sentencing.

Love suffers from dementia, most likely in the form of Alzheimer's, and concerns were raised about the effect imprisonment might have on his wellbeing.

In an unusual move, Love was allowed to address Justice Lang where he defended his actions.

"In terms of what happened and what I was involved in and what this case is about it was not my intention, that's not my way."

He also apologised for being absent in court for part of the trial, saying his ailing health meant he could not be there, and he hoped this was not perceived as rude or disrespectful.

"I had to take some medication and it did knock me out, and that's how I landed in hospital a couple of times. It was not because I was not interested, I was interested."

Love thanked his family for their sacrifice and for "keeping me alive, with 24-hours-a-day care."  

Mr Carruthers argued for home detention instead of prison as Love requires "a significant course of ongoing treatment for what is a virtually untreatable condition but requires medication to alleviate the symptoms".

The Crown argued that Love's health needs could be managed within the prison system and any concerns could be allayed.

Before handing down the sentence, Justice Lang praised Love's work in the community.

"You have devoted your life selflessly to the advancement of Māori interests in this region and nationwide.

"I cannot hope here to capture the contribution that you have made to New Zealand society over the last 40 years."

Justice Lang told Love he is "an inspirational leader in Māoridom, someone who the young people can look up to so you are entitled to very significant credit for that".

Last month Love was found guilty of obtaining property by deception, relating to his involvement as chairman of the Wellington Tenths Trust in 2006/07.

He was accused of securing a payment from developers for the right to purchase a lease on land belonging to the trust, which he failed to disclose to his fellow trustees.

The Crown argued he used the payment to buy a $1.8m home in Plimmerton; money that rightfully belonged to the trust.

The Serious Fraud Office brought the charges against Love, and director Julie Read said the sentence represents "a gross abuse of trust".

"It is a sad day for his iwi and for those who placed their confidence in him as a respected Māori leader and a champion of Māori development."

On Thursday Love's supporters pleaded Justice Lang not to send him to prison and Māori leader Peter Moeahu urged the judge to instead allow kaumatua to deal with him.

Love was knighted in 2008 for his services to Māori. The Prime Minister's office previously told Newshub they'll wait for the case to finish in the courts before commenting on the possibility of him being stripped of his knighthood.