Tame Iti’s guns and bombs Plan B
One of the enduring mysteries of the Urewera affair is why jailed gun criminal Tame Iti wanted a violent, para-military Plan B.
Hordes of defence lawyers – largely on taxpayer-funded legal aid – did nothing to dispel why Iti saw it necessary to have a Plan B at all, and devoted so much time and money to develop some sort of military capability.
It was a question Justice Rodney Hansen dearly wanted answered when he jailed Iti and his gun crime crony, Rangi “ the lieutenant” Kemara, for two and a half years this week.
Justice Hansen spoke for many law-abiding folk.
But an answer never came.
A lot of time and money, careful planning and premeditation went into developing Plan B.
It was a serious plan, involving military-style training exercises over a long time with a number of illegally-held firearms and other illegal weapons such as Molotov cocktails.
According to Iti, Plan B would be adopted if Plan A - peaceful negotiation with the government by Tuhoe to get what Tuhoe wants – failed.
Iti described his group as a revolutionary military wing of Aotearoa and referred to training to smash the system.
Kemara spoke of training to kill “because we will probably have to”.
These were no idle boasts.
Urs Signer, who, along with convicted partner Emily Bailey, is expected to be sentenced in June to nine months' home detention for Urewera gun crime, detailed exercises which involved eliminating a guard and blowing up a building and kidnapping.
Signer listed ingredients of a Molotov cocktail – a petrol bomb.
Justice Hansen said testimonials to Signer’s “peace-loving character” were impossible to reconcile with the man who was engaged with others in learning how to use Molotov cocktails and who authored training scenarios which at least simulated violence to people and property.
“It is another of the contradictions of this case which I am at a loss to explain.”
Justice Hansen was clear that a private militia was being established.
“Whatever the justification,” he said, “that is a frightening prospect in our society, undermining of our democratic institutions and anathema to our way of life.”
At least one person involved in Iti’s military camps held extreme anarchist views, while another spoke of experimenting with an explosive device capable of killing people if thrown into a room.
Justice Hansen made the point that a crime committed in pursuit of a noble ideal is as much a crime as a criminal act done for a base motive.
The end does not justify the means.
He also made it crystal clear that any damage done to the local community as a result of the police operation was the responsibility of the prisoners and “should not divert attention from the unlawful activities which necessitated the investigation in the first place”.
The unlawful activities were “the root cause of dissension and consternation which accompanied and followed disclosure both locally and nationally”.
The judge said Iti, Kemara, Signer and Bailey should be held accountable for the harm they had done to the community, and this was reflected in the penalties.
He rejected non-prison alternatives suggested by defence lawyers as “simply inadequate to reflect the gravity of the offending”.
“It is my responsibility to convey in unambiguous terms society’s rejection of the possession and use of firearms and other weapons, other than for legitimate purposes, and to put paid to any notion that their use can be excuses if the cause is right,” Justice Hansen said.