The Auckland High Court sentenced Daljit Singh on February 19 to five months of community detention and 200 hours of community work on charges relating to electoral fraud, the first of its type in New Zealand.
Rejecting the plea that Mr Singh should be discharged without conviction, presiding Judge Mark Woolford said that the offence was not ‘victimless.’
“The victims are public at large, who have faith in the democratic process. Your actions have undermined one of the most important processes of the country,” he said in his sentencing remarks.
Mr Singh was found guilty by a jury on December 12, 2013 (Indian Newslink, January 15, 2014). His lawyer said that his client would lose his status as a Justice of the Peace, his Immigration Adviser Licence and his job as a real estate agent.
But Judge Woolford ruled that the consequences of a conviction were not out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence.
He said that Mr Singh’s offending was ‘naïve, arising out of a desire to represent people on the Local Board.’
A popular member of the Sikh community in the country, Mr Singh contested as a Labour candidate in the first Auckland ‘Super City’ elections in 2010 to represent the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board.
He was not successful in the election.
The Court had found him guilty on two charges of dealing with forged documents. He had changed residential addresses to show that people from places such as Timaru and Tauranga appeared to live in the area of Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board in Auckland.
Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey said, “Some level of stigma properly attaches to using forged documents in the context of an election.”
Gurinder Atwal, who was among five others found guilty, was sentenced to six months community detention and 200 hours of community work.
Mandeep Singh, Virender Singh, Paramjit Singh and Malkeet Singh received lesser sentences.
Their lawyers argued that their businesses and standing in the community had been affected by the case.
The Judge said that the defendants had falsely changed the addresses of a large number of people on the website of the Electoral Enrolment Centre to show that they are living in the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board area in July and August 2010.
The discovery was made during an audit conducted before the election.