By Patrick Gower
The ACT Party MP who has made his reputation by being a hard-liner on crime has admitted stealing the identity of a dead child to obtain a fraudulent passport.
David Garrett, who earlier this week also admitted he had had an assault conviction in Tonga, told Parliament he got the false passport back in the 1980s, but never used it.
His deception was discovered by police six years ago.
Garrett stole the identity of a dead child 26 years ago.
"I obtained the birth certificate of a child born around the time I was born but who died in infancy," he told Parliament today.
He used it obtain a passport with a method taken straight from spy thriller novel The Day of the Jackal.
"To this day I cannot explain the rationale behind my actions except to say I was simply curious to see whether such a thing could be done."
It could, but Garrett's fraud was uncovered by a police sweep after Israeli spies were caught stealing New Zealand passports in 2004.
"I was duly put before the court and admitted obtaining a passport by false pretences."
This latest admission came just a day after Garrett was forced to explain an assault conviction in a Tongan court.
So 3 News asked then if it was the only offence – he said yes, then admitted "a few speeding convictions", dating back to 1978.
But there was more - identity fraud.
Garrett was discharged without conviction and granted permanent name suppression - which he overrode using the protection of Parliamentary privilege today.
"I foolishly undertook what I naively saw as a harmless prank, one that was to later have repercussions both for me personally and others who did not deserve to be hurt by my thoughtless actions," said Garrett.
The passport was never used, but the prank came back to hurt the child's family.
"The regret I feel at the hurt I unwittingly caused the family of the deceased child is something I carry with me today and will continue to carry for the rest of my life. I cannot wind back the clock but I sincerely wish that I could… I have made many mistakes in my life - none more than this."
Garrett's other political mistakes include making a lewd remark to a staffer, and the Tongan conviction.
But ACT leader Rodney Hide knew of the passport fraud, and says Garrett deserves yet another chance.
"Of course it's not acceptable," says Mr Hide, "but things that people do in the past, is in the past."
"Fundamentally he's not part of my caucus, and he's not part of the Government per se," says Prime Minister John Key, "and he rests with the ACT leadership."
So there has now been another strike for the 'three strikes' hardliner.