This afternoon Justice Wyllie in the High Court at Auckland is expected to announce his decision on the guilt or otherwise of John Banks of the charge of falsely declaring that donations from Kim Dotcom and Sky City were anonymous.
This is a criminal trial and proof beyond reasonable doubt is required. Banks may be acquitted on the basis that he made an error in not reading the return properly yet signing it as being true and correct. Although you would expect a former Mayor of Auckland and Cabinet Minister to be able to process a printed form properly it may be that the Judge accepts that Banks made a mistake, or at least that the Judge is not persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that Banks did not make a mistake.
The trial was as colourful as the combatants. There was an intense disagreement between Banks and Dotcom about what happened. The splitting up of the Dotcom donation into 2 cheques of $25,000 each and Banks’ campaign having a target of ten donations of $25,000 each will no doubt attract attention.
There is also the Sky City donation. The Judge will have to consider the implications of Banks receiving a cheque in a sealed envelope, handing it to his press advisor to give to the campaign financial manager and then failing to appreciate that Sky City had donated money to him.
No doubt the National Party is going through the different possible scenarios to work out a game plan and I suspect these are as follows:
If this occurs then the next issue will be should a by election be held. If a vacancy occurs within six months of the date that Parliament is to expire or the date of the next election then by a 75% vote Parliament can resolve not to hold a by election. I am reasonably sure this would be the preference. Parliament is scheduled to rise on July 31 and it is doubtful that a new MP could be elected by then. National may struggle to get a majority on crucial votes in the meantime however.
No doubt eyes will be on Twitter this afternoon to see what the result is. I will update this post when the result is known.