Thu 20 Dec 2007 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA
11.00am: Convicted fraudster Martin van der Reit stood expressionless in the Auckland District Court this morning as Judge Josephine Bouchier sentenced him to two and a half years in prison for taking $35,000 from the Auckland Pride Centre in 2003-4. Judge Bouchier said she'd taken six months off the 30-month fraud sentence in acknowledgement of van der Reit's previous good character, but added it on again for the one guilty charge of perverting the course of justice. A spokesperson from the Pride Centre describes the sentence as "fair." Ven der Reit's defence lawyer told the court that her client wanted to work and pay off his debt to the Pride Centre, but was unable to do so as his most recent work permit had expired. "He accepts the Pride Centre has been harmed through his actions, and is keen to make amends," the court heard. Ven der Reit was currently in the process of applying for a new permit to work in New Zealand, where he was staying with his partner and his partner's family. The defence lawyer sought the sentencing to be delayed while her client continued to search for work. The defence also pointed out that the offences arose through 'misunderstandings' between van der Reit and Pride Centre management, and that he was at low risk of re-offending. The Crown lawyer cast doubt on the possibility of van der Reit finding employment in New Zealand with the fraud charges hanging over him. He also pointed out "if he had any intention towards reparation to the Pride Centre, he would have mentioned it before today." The Crown also stated that van der Reit's actions at the Pride Centre between late 2003 and early 2004 were deliberate and prolonged activities to secure a large amount of public money and later distort documents to cover up the deception. The harm caused by van der Reit's crimes were highlighted in a victim impact statement read by Judge Bouchier. The financial loss to the Auckland Pride Centre of $35,000 caused the Centre to close its doors. According to statements from Pride Centre stalwart Edward Bennett and Board Chair Joel Stutter, the LGBT community had suffered considerably from its closure, and that they themselves had suffered ridicule in media reports about the case, had their credibility destroyed, and had even suffered verbal and physical abuse over the matter. After the sentence was handed down Stutter said he felt the sentence "reflects the nature of the crime and is a fair one." He says it is pleasing to get closure on the affair, and although it would be nice to get some money back from van der Reit, "I don't expect we'll ever see a cent." A request by van der Reit's defence lawyer to consider home detention was rejected.
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Thursday, 20th December 2007 - 10:55am
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