John Banks relinquished his position as Justice of the Peace when in 2012 he was charged with filing a false electoral return during his Auckland mayoral campaign in 2010, involving donations from Kim Dotcom.
Banks was found guilty but won an appeal that overturned the conviction after he produced new evidence from two American businessmen that contradicted claims made by Dotcom and his wife Mona.
Banks has now been reinstated as a Justice of the Peace. NZ Herald:
“This is just another step in putting a lot of wrongs right after a long, time-wasting and particularly nasty judicial jihad that should have never happened”.
He said he had been a JP for about 14 years and enjoyed the “bread and butter” but important role of certifying documents and swearing affidavits.
I don’t see any problem with Banks being a JP, I don’t doubt his integrity in this regard.
Questions will still be asked about his campaign integrity. Was he lax, or did he knowingly turn a blind eye in signing his electoral return?
Local body candidates are in a much more difficult situation regarding donations as they don’t have party structures to deal with donations at supposed arms length from the candidates. They have to somehow find ways of financing their campaigns but aren’t supposed to know specific donor details while being responsible for signing their returns.
I’m sure Banks was far from the only candidate to have problems dealing with donations. David Cunliffe was embarrassed by his use of a trust for donations when he stood for the labour leadership.
What makes Banks case different in particular is that there seems to have been an attempt by Dotcom to damage Banks, with claims of utu being involved after Dotcom and Banks fell out.
Trevor Mallard was involved, initially laying a complaint against Banks which led to Dotcom’s claims, and Mallard made a further complaint after this came out.
The National Government held a slim majority and Banks had been targeted by the opposition as a means of embarrassing or even bringing down the Government. Dotcom went on the try and defeat the Government in the 2014 election by starting up the Internet Party and pouring a large amount of money into the campaign.
In comparison to all of this Banks being lax or careless with his electoral return in a campaign that he lost seems far less of a democratic issue than what Dotcom and Mallard did.
Would Mallard have the integrity required of a JP? Perhaps now he might, but he has a history of dabbling in dirty politics of a kind far worse in a democracy than a disputed electoral return procedure.
I wouldn’t have any problem using Banks as a JP.