No conviction against White Jail term disproportionate: Chief Justice

Former Tasmanian Compliance Corporation director John White (right) has avoided a conviction after pleading guilty to interfering with an executive officer.FORMER Tasmanian Compliance Corporation director John White has avoided a conviction for his role in an agreement signed with the former Deputy Premier Bryan Green. The agreement gave the TCC a lucrative three-year monopoly to accredit the State’s builders.
Nanjing Night Net

Chief Justice Peter Underwood yesterday said a jail term, whether actual or suspended, would be disproportionate to the gravity of White’s criminal conduct.

He adjourned the case for two years upon White giving an undertaking to be of good behaviour for that period.

White changed his plea to guilty to interfering with an executive officer on the day his joint trial with Mr Green was due to start in the Supreme Court in Hobart.The court heard that White was trying to protect the “very substantial income” he received from the TCC when he approached the Government in 2005. White and Mr Green’s department began work on a series of draft agreements, with White pressing for the inclusion of a clause that granted the TCC a monopoly.

By early 2006, White was becoming concerned about an imminent election because he knew the Liberal Party wanted to take the job of accrediting builders from the TCC and give it to Consumer Affairs.

He lobbied Mr Green and his advisers and then State ALP secretary David Price for their support and refused to sign the agreement without the monopoly clause.

Mr Green instructed the monopoly clause be included in the agreement, which was signed by White two days before the election was called and by Mr Green the day before the election was called.

Chief Justice Underwood said White was entitled to lobby but broke the law when he signed the deal knowing it would interfere with the free exercise of a minister’s ability to appoint another body to accredit builders.

However, he stressed that Mr Green was presumed innocent because he has pleaded not guilty to the same charge as White and the jury deciding his case was unable to reach a verdict.

“It does not follow that because Mr White intended to interfere with the authority or duty of the minister, Mr Green was of the same state of mind,” he said.

Mr Green will reappear in court in February next year.

During sentencing submissions, defence lawyer David Porter, QC, asked that a conviction not be recorded against White because it might risk his ability to practise law or disqualify him from being a company director for five years.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC, accepted a penalty that did not require a conviction would be within proper range in White’s case.

Chief Justice Underwood questioned why the case was brought against White if Mr Ellis knew that his criminal culpability was so low that a penalty that did not involve conviction was appropriate.

However, he noted that it was the DPP’s job to prosecute if there was sufficient evidence to gain a conviction and it was in the public interest.

“One can well imagine that having decided that the minister should be prosecuted, the DPP may have considered that it was in the public interest also to proceed against the other signatory to the agreement, even though his level of wrongdoing was of a very low order,” Chief Justice Underwood said.

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