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Urewera 4 Case Back in Court This Week

Urewera 4 Case Back in Court This Week

by Annemarie Thorby

The Urewera 4 case is back in the Auckland High Court this week.

On Wednesday 9th May the Crown will announce if they are going to seek a re-trial of the Participation charges against Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

The four are the only people eventually put on trial as a result of 'Operation Eight'; the police raids of October 15 2007 when over 300 police raided homes ups and down the country, set-up a road block on the Confiscation Line near the town of Ruatoki and arrested 18 people nationwide.

Originally police asked that terrorism charges be laid against twelve of the people, however that request was denied and all the people were released on bail facing only Arms Act charges. One year after the raids, the police charged five of the group with the more serious charge of 'Participation in an Organised Criminal Group'. (One of the five died in July 2011 and proceedings were stayed against him by the Crown.)

Only four people ultimately ended up in court earlier this year because in September 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that the police had acted illegally in their gathering of evidence. In her summing-up, Chief Justice Sian Elias said that 'the deliberate unlawfulness of the police conduct in the covert filming, maintained over many entries and over a period of some 10 months, is destructive of an effective and credible system of justice.' (Paragraphs 72 & 73 Supreme Court Decision 125 Hamed v. Queen). The breaking of the law by the police was found by the Supreme Court to be more serious than any alleged Arms Act offences, and Arms charges against the other defendants were dropped.

However, the illegally gathered evidence could be used against the people charged with 'Participation in an Organised Criminal Group' as that is a more serious offence.

The four were in the Auckland High Court earlier this year, and after a six week trial, on the third day of deliberation on 20th March, they were convicted on some Arms Act charges.

The jury was hung and were unable to reach a verdict on the Participation charges. As a result, some people voiced concern about the validity of the Arms Act convictions as they were based on illegally gathered evidence.

Annette Sykes, a lawyer who argued against the admissibility of the video evidence in the Supreme Court, demanded that 'all the firearms convictions against Tame Iti, Rangi Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey be thrown out immediately.'

She said, 'The outcome of these firearms charges must be consistent with the other 13 whose charges have been dismissed.'

Sentencing is set down for 24th May for the Arms Act convictions.

Meanwhile, as the jury were hung on the charge of Participation, the four defendants will not know until the 9th May if they will be re-tried on that charge. The Crown still has the option to re-lay the charge.

The defendants are excused from Court on the 9th.


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