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.