Justice Hansen lays it on the line to 'Urewera Four'
In sentencing the Urewera 4 Justice Rodney Hansen made it clear where he stood.
He began his sentencing comments in Auckland High Court this morning by outlining what he said were “the incontrovertible facts of the case.”
He said training camps took place in three locations in the Ureweras with the number of people attending varying from ten to thirty.
Firearms were “present and used” at each of the camps and they consisted of semi-automatic weapons, .22 sporting rifles and shotguns.
He said there was clear evidence that all of the prisoners were in possession of a firearm on at least one occasion and the camps were primarily directed at training people in military maneuvers and exercises, which included simulated ambushes.
Molotov cocktails were made and thrown at one of the camps.
Justice Hansen said possession of firearms was not, in itself, unlawful if they were being used for legitimate purposes but the contention that they were needed to further bushcraft and survival skills was “utterly implausible.”
“I consider harm has been done to the community for which you must be held accountable,” he told the prisoners.
“This was a lengthy period of offending, not a one-off incident or opportunistic offending. The offending was characterised by premeditation and planning.
“Considerable resources, time and money were committed to these enterprises and the use of Molotov cocktails could not be reconciled with the peaceful purposes of the camps.”
He said although there were “elements of Dad’s Army in the group the intent was serious.”
“I believe a private militia was being established, a frightening prospect undermining our democratic institutions and anathema to society. Some of the participants held extreme anarchist views.”
“I acknowledge the ultimate goal of the possession of the weapons was not a criminal one and I accept your intention of redressing Tuhoe grievances.
“But a crime committed in pursuit of a noble ideal is just as bad as a crime committed for a base purpose. The end does not justify the means.”
Justice Hansen said Tame Iti was one of the instigators of the offending and responsible for organising the camps while Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara was primarily responsible for purchasing weapons and ammunition.
“I see you as Iti’s lieutenant,” the judge added.
He said Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were not involved in the planning of the camps; they were primarily involved in liaising with other parties.
Addressing Iti and Kemara he said a sentence of imprisonment was “unavoidable.”
“My responsibility is to convey in unambiguous terms society’s rejection of lethal weapons for illegal purposes.”
Justice Hansen said there were some mitigating factors: the offending was not gang related and occurred “in pursuit of a worthy ideal with only a remote risk of harm to others.”
In view of this the starting point for the two men was a term of imprisonment of three years.
Given Iti’s outstanding record of service to his community and Kemara’s unblemished record, he considered a sentence of two years and six months was appropriate.
To Signer and Bailey, Justice Hansen said: “you were followers, not leaders. Your belief in the justice of the Tuhoe cause allowed you to be drawn into a project without any clear understanding.”
He said the starting point for them was a sentence of two years imprisonment but given their previous good character and family responsibilities he would delay their sentencing until next month to see whether it was practical to give them home detention.
As the Justice concluded the sentencing, Iti began a loud haka and was quickly joined by his many supporters in the packed courtroom.