David Garrett resigns from parliament after “prank”

By David Barber

Wellington (dpa) – A New Zealand legislator who admitted he stole a dead toddler’s identity to get a false passport as a “prank” 26 years ago resigned from parliament Friday.

      David Garrett, 52, who was a hardliner on law and order, resigned from the right-wing ACT party, which supports the centre-right government, after it was revealed that his name was suppressed when he admitted the offence in court and was discharged without conviction.

     It was also revealed recently that Garrett, a lawyer, was convicted of assault in Tonga while living there in 2002.

     Garrett, a first-term member of parliament elected in 2008, said he could remain in the House of Representatives as an independent but he would lack a mandate.

      “With no credibility and no mandate, I’d be a pretty pathetic figure,” he said.

     Garrett was elected on the ACT party’s slate in the past general election and would be replaced by the next person on the list, lawyer Hilary Calvert said, so a by-election is not necessary.

      ACT would maintain its five members of parliament, who are allies of the ruling conservative National Party, which has 58 seats in the 122-strong parliament. Prime Minister John Key’s administration is also supported by five Maori Party members and one other legislator.

     Garrett admitted in parliament last week that he had used a dead 2-year-old boy’s name from a cemetery gravestone to get his birth certificate and obtain a false passport. He said he got the idea from reading Frederick Forsyth’s thriller The Day of the Jackal and wanted to see if it could be done.

     Court documents showed the boy’s mother, who is now 94, told police at the time that Garrett’s action was “akin to stealing from a grave.” A brother of the child dubbed the legislator the “lowest of the low.”

     Expressing “profound regret for the distress and hurt” he had caused, Garrett said, “I wish I had not done such a stupid and dreadfully hurtful thing in 1984.”