Alan Titford's feet of clay have been shown to all the world. But could he have been Northland's mayor?

In an ideal world, the sentencing of Alan Titford to 24 years in jail for multiple charges including rape, violence and arson would cause a number of people some embarrassment.

Prior to this, Titford was known in certain circles as a martyr, whom the Government and Maori "forced" off his Northland farm in order to return the land to Te Iwi O Te Roroa as a part of their Treaty Settlement. Oh, sure, he may have appeared to agree to sell that land to the Crown in exchange for $3.25 million (after buying it for $600,000 nine years earlier). But (so it is claimed) that agreement only came about as the result of duress, after Titford faced a campaign of intimidation and violence - including the burning down of his home - from members of Te Roroa who were occupying "his" land.

Chilling stuff, showing a future any of "us" may face. Greedy Maori, using invented history and brute force, working hand in glove with a craven Government to force a hard-working, ordinary Kiwi farmer off his land. Alan Titford could be you, in the brave new world of the Treaty Industry.

Unfortunately for this narrative, it now turns out that large portions of it were entirely false. Alan Titford didn't face a campaign of violent intimidation from Te Roroa. He did it to himself, burning down his own home and inventing complaints to the Police about Te Roroa in order to engender sympathy and increase the amount of compensation he was paid. While at the same time keeping his wife a "slave", raping her and bringing her to the brink of suicide, and beating his children when they refused to obey him.

So, it would be nice if all those who have over the years held up Alan Titford as an innocent victim and cause celebre would now put their hands up and do a bit of a retraction. People like Mike Butler, over at the New Zealand Centre for Political Research website (who as recently as June this year was writing that "The amount [Titford received] was not enough to get another farm either in New Zealand or in Tasmania, where the Titford family went to escape harassment.") Or like a very odd little on-line publication called "elocal", which in September this year (at about the same time Titford was convicted for his various offences, including the arson of his own home) published an article that breathlessly claimed that:

Mr Titford was harassed by Te Roroa, arrested, pressured and allegedly beaten by the police on numerous occasions without conviction. His buildings were set on fire to destroy evidence, stock stolen, plant sabotaged and his life threatened, but the government showed little concern.

Finally, someone burnt his house to the ground hoping it would destroy all his documents showing this claim was a fraud, but Mr Titford had made copies of the documents, which he had safely stored. With nowhere to live and in fear of their lives without protection from the police and virtually bankrupt, the whole family was forced to flee to Tasmania in 1993.

However, as we don't live in an ideal world, I won't be holding my breath waiting for these folk to do the right thing. Instead, let's turn our attention to another pretty odd aspect of the Titford story.

At the same time as he was sitting in jail awaiting sentence for his various crimes, Titford's name was on the ballot papers for Northland's mayoralty at the October local body elections. And, perhaps helped by the fact he still had name suppression (in order to protect his wife, as a victim of sexual offending), some 400-odd people cast votes that indicated he was their preferred choice for that position.

Which seems a bit strange, and has Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain asking questions as to how it could happen. Here's the answer.

Under the Local Electoral Act 2001, you can be a candidate for any local government election if you are enrolled to be a voter (and are a NZ citizen). And, under the Electoral Act 1993, you only lose the right to be enrolled to vote if you are "detained in a prison pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment". So if you are in jail awaiting sentence after being convicted, you can (in fact, must) be enrolled to vote - and thus have the right to be a candidate for election.

So that is simple enough. Titford was able to continue to be a candidate even after his convictions because there was nothing in law to say he couldn't be a candidate.

However, it was all an exercise in futility. Because Titford was always going to be sentenced to a long period in jail. And upon being sentenced to a term of imprisonment and sent down to serve it, his right to be enrolled to vote would automatically be removed. Whereupon he would immediately be disqualified from any local government office to which he had been elected.

So even in some bizzaro world where Alan Titford overcame the small impediment of being in jail after being convicted for rape, violence and various other nasty activities and got himself elected as mayor of Northland, his time in office would have come to an end on Tuesday with the court's sentencing.

Comments (14)

by Jono on November 21, 2013
Jono

I had occasion once to read some file information held by DOC about Titfords activities in the late 1980s at Maunganui Bluff. Back then, DOC archaeologists provided archaeological services to the Historic Places Trust, including investigating reports of illegal damage to archaeological sites under the then Historic Places Act  1975.

The HPT had been informed that Titford was bulldozing archaeological sites on his land a year or two before the land claim issue blew up. Local Maori had watched him push his bulldozer through pa sites and kainga on the coastal part of the farm with some dismay, and had contacted the HPT.

The DOC archaeologists made several visits, confirming archaeological sites damage had occured without the authority of the HPT, advising him of his legal obligations and telling him to desist. Titford claimed he was making races for the farm but really he was making a start on roading prior to actually getting approval to subdivide the coastal block and make his fortune. 

Titford continued to make his roads and alienate the local Maori, and always under resourced, particualrly with regards to prosecutions, the Trust didnt do anything beyond some finger wagging. And the then the proverbial hit the fan.

Obviously he was never a simple salt of the earth farmer trying to make a crust on the land in the face of lying Maori radicals. He was a cashed up fisherman and a speculator looking to make his fortune in coastal real estate and not concerned with doing things the legal, let alone the ethical way. He left for Aussie with his compensation and fouled things up over there as well as I understand it.

He became a poster boy for the anti treaty brigade and I well recall the hysteria and support for him amongst the local citizenry in Northland. He obvisously feels no remorse and accepts no responsibility for his actions, based on the comments from his lawyer yesterday,. I hope his appeal falls flat and he spends along time in jail, not just for the sake of his family but also for his impact on Maori/pakeha relations in this neck of the woods.

 

 

by Jono on November 21, 2013
Jono

I also note the nasty little nexus of Titford, Butler, and various history conspiracy crypto-facists like Noel Hilliam, Martin Doutre, Kerry Bolton, Kyle Chapman and the rest of the 1lawforallcoastalcoalitiontreatytravestyancientcelticnewzealand foofaraaw.

Scott Hamilton over at Reading the Maps (http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/) has written extensively about this nasty little loose cabal of nutbars whipping up hatred under the guise of researching the 'real' history of Aotearoa-NZ, and their links with other neo-nazi nutbars in Australia and further a field. I hope Scott will take some time out from his Tongan idyll to return to the subject given Titford's sentencing.

by barry on November 21, 2013
barry

The sad thing is that in years to come people will have forgotten this and only remember that a Northland farmer was hassled by Maori and the government to sell his land for next to nothing.

by Tim Watkin on November 21, 2013
Tim Watkin

What I don't get is that a mayoral candidate wasn't ever approached by any local media for a sit-down interview – especially such a controversial one. Then presumably someone would have noted that he was, y'know, in prison. Just amazed he stood without anyone breaking the bizarre story of his candidacy.

by william blake on November 21, 2013
william blake

Barry, don't underestimate the kiwi appetite for schaudenfrude and for having memories like a steel trap.

by william blake on November 21, 2013
william blake

Tim, perhaps all of Northlands' candidates were on remand?

by Andrew Geddis on November 22, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Tim,

Given the nature of his offending - rape of his ex-wife, Susan Cochrane - there is an automatic bar on publishing his name. That's designed to protect the victim. This was only lifted at sentencing when Susan Cochrane specifically requested that he be identified publicly (and the Judge agreed to that request).

So it would have been tricky to do a sit down interview with him that revealed he is in jail without breaching that law! It's almost certain that some journos in the area knew what the story was - they just weren't able to tell it.

by Rich on November 22, 2013
Rich

I don't see how the law can be any different if you have a rule that councillors are only disqualified by imprisonment - it's hard to second guess a judge - especially as there might be more marginal cases than this - could somebody serve as a councillor when on home detention for fraud?

It's an interesting thought that there may even be councillors currently in office who previously committed horrendous crimes and have been released with name suppression, unbeknown to the voters.

 

 

by Andrew Geddis on November 22, 2013
Andrew Geddis

"...could somebody serve as a councillor when on home detention for fraud?"

There are two ways a councillor can be removed from office (after criminal offending).

The first is by being convicted of an offence carrying a possible 2 years or more jail term (irrespective of actual sentence handed down). So, a councillor convicted of fraud after being elected would have their position "vacated".

The second is if a councillor is disqualified from voting in parliamentary elections. That's what would have caught Titford (had he been elected) - upon being sentenced to jail, he'd have been disqualified from voting, and thus removed from office.

But, in theory, a councillor/mayor elected after being convicted but then sentenced to home detention would still be able to remain in office. Which returns us to the basic arbitrariness of the rule that disqualifies people from voting if jailed, but not if sentenced to another punishment. That's another post, however.

by Kyle Matthews on November 23, 2013
Kyle Matthews

Andrew, surely the law doesn't make sense.

If I have been convicted of a serious crime for which the minimum sentence is well over the sentence by which I'd be kicked out of elected office, but not yet sentence, then allowing me to stand for election is a nonsense. My conviction is done, so I'm going to be sentenced, and my sentence is always going to mean that I can't stay in the elected position, it's just timing.

Wouldn't an amendment saying that if you've been convicted of a crime which always carries a certain sentence, then you can't stand for office, make sense? And that only leaves the 'inbetweens' who have been convicted of a crime which may have a high enough sentence, but which may not.

Or is this situation so rare that it doesn't particularly matter, given that a lot of people are likely to know about your conviction, so you'd struggle to be elected anyway.

by Andrew Geddis on November 23, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Kyle,

Titford presents one of those bizarre fact scenarios that, if I had set it in an exam, students would roll their eyes and say "why can't we be tested on stuff that happens in the real world?" So I think trying to close the loophole hetook advantage of isn't really necessary.

The problem with your solution - "if you've been convicted of a crime which always carries a certain sentence, then you can't stand for office" - is that no crime carries a "certain sentence". It is even theoretically possible to commit a murder and yet not be imprisoned for it.

(Impossible, you say? Well - imagine a present day Clayton Weatherston scenario, where a parent bursts into the room to see him bent over the body of his/her very obviously dead child ... and is so enraged by this, he/she shoots him dead. There's no defence of provocation in law any more - so this would be murder. But would a judge jail them?)

by Graeme Edgeler on November 24, 2013
Graeme Edgeler

There's no defence of provocation in law any more - so this would be murder. But would a judge jail them?)

Assuming they were convicted of murder. Yes.

by DeepRed on November 26, 2013
DeepRed

There's a strong whiff of the No True Scotsman fallacy with Allan Titford's supporters. It was just the same with Anders Breivik and a lot of the neo-Crusaderist rabble he lionised.

by Bruce Thorpe on November 28, 2013
Bruce Thorpe

I think most Northland journos knew Titford was the "wellknown identity" charged and later found guilty of these charges, but we also understood the court suppression was at that time on account of his ex-wife and family.

He was also being difficult about negotiations over access to another farm up here, and I guessed it was him when he was still on bail, because although I was not told the charges, his bail conditions prevented him from even visiting the area.

He was from the start clearly a nasty, manipulative character and have the utmost contemptfor his supporters for a very long time.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.