Urewera 4 sentencing 'generous' – Court of Appeal

UPDATE:

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the Urewera four’s appeal against their convictions and sentences.

In today’s decision, Justices Mark O’Regan, Ellen France and Terence Arnold have agreed with High Court Justice Rodney Hansen’s earlier ruling and labelled it a "generous one".

Lawyers for Urs Signer, Emily Bailey, veteran activist Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara took the appeal in August, three months after Justice Hansen’s ruling.

At the time, Signer and Bailey received a sentence of nine months' home detention on firearms possession charges while Iti and Kemara were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison on the same charges.

In today’s ruling Justices O’Regan, France and Arnold agreed with Justice Hansen’s reasoning in the following passage:

“The question of whether the four of you participated in a criminal group, which had as its objective the commission of serious crimes of violence, is quite distinct from the issue of why you acquired the firearms and deployed them at the camps.

"Your intention in that latter sense is highly relevant to an assessment of your culpability and there is sufficient evidence on that issue to satisfy me to the standard of beyond reasonable doubt.”

They also suggested Justice Hansen’s approach had been “generous”.

“Accordingly, we consider it was open to the judge to reach the factual findings he did. Once that point is accepted, there can be no real argument that the sentences imposed were within range.

"Indeed, there is force in the Crown submission that in giving credit for the appellants’ altruistic motivation, the approach taken was generous.”

The Court of Appeal also disagreed with claims pre-trial publicity would have led to an unfair trial. The ruling emphasised the fact there was a "significant lapse in time" between the bulk of the publicity in question and the trial.

The judges highlighted the application by the appellants for a trial by jury, saying it indicated they had no issue with the effect of pre-trial publicity.

During the two-day appeal, Iti’s lawyer Russell Fairbrother said Justice Hansen should have looked at the group’s actions in their cultural context, not through a "central Auckland perspective”.

He said there would be little cause for concern if someone was seen in Ruatoki carrying a gun. However, there would be legitimate concern if someone was carrying it up Auckland’s Queen St.

Mr Fairbrother argued the jury, before retiring to consider a verdict, should have told that to assess the lawfulness, they had to “look at the environment; the fact the exercises were organised; uninvolved members of the public were excluded; there was an element of discipline; there was no evidence of others being upset by it”.

But the Court of Appeal disagreed. The ruling noted Justice Hansen’s directions to the jury were broad enough to encompass the concept of a different world.


Background:

It was five years ago this month the eastern Bay of Plenty township of Ruatoki became the talk of the country, following the Urewera terrorism raids

On the morning of October 15, 2007, and after a year of police surveillance, a series of raids were carried out in the township.

More than 300 police officers, including armed offenders’ squad members and anti-terrorism squads were involved in the operation. As a result, 17 people, including Urs Signer, Emily Bailey, veteran activist Tame Iti, and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were arrested.

Police had claimed Iti was involved in running military-style training camps in the Urewera Ranges and was planning a guerrilla war to establish an independent state on traditional Tūhoe land.  Four guns and 230 rounds of ammunition were seized in the raids.

Evidence gathered during the raids was consequently passed on to then-Solicitor General David Collins, but on November 8, 2007, Mr Collins refused to prosecute under the Terrorism Suppression Act, saying there was insufficient evidence.

In September 2011, the Supreme Court ruled certain evidence inadmissible, forcing the Crown to drop the charges for all but Signer, Bailey, Iti and Kemara.

The Supreme Court had ruled police were unable to use evidence from surveillance cameras they had installed.

Signer, Bailey, Iti and Kemara all faced trial in the Auckland High Court in February this year, on charges of firearm possession and participating in a criminal group. All four were found guilty on the firearms charges, while the jury was unable to agree on the criminal group charge.

In May 2012, Signer and Bailey received a sentence of nine months home detention while Iti and Kemara were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

In late August lawyers for all four went to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to have the convictions and sentenced overturned.

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20 Comments & Questions

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Thank goodness for that. If it hadn't been for the police bungle on inadmissible evidence, they and a few others could have been locked up for a heck of a lot longer!

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Has there been any recent case whereby on appeal (by the convicted party) that a judge has actually increased a sentence?
I am told that Singapore has a habit of teaching offenders a lesson for wasting the courts time by slapping increased penalties on those who question the earlier sentence.

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Do the crime, be a man and do the time! Dont bleat.

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Yeah flag the appeal system, just stick 'em away, eh? You should move to Texas.

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Another in a long line of police bungling and unlawful behaviour: Dotcom, GSCB, failure to implement the commission of inquiry into police culture on time, unlawful activity investigating gangs. How much longer must taxpayers tolerate this woeful standard of management, waste of money and the extreme arrogance they show towards the "rule of law"?

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Justice for the majority finally!!

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Will Signer, a foreigner, be deported at the end of his sentence? I hope so. He's the sort of Johnny-come-lately know-it-all immigrant that this country is much better without.

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Oh you are a coward why hide yourself, I do not see what these people did to be brought before the courts, I ran similer camps with teenagers in the 70s but gave up the firearms at our camps in favour of other activities we considered more enlightened and in keeping with the spirit of Outward Bound.

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Extreme arrogance is demonstrated by the ignorant. The fact is over 10 million was spent on scratching for fire arms charges. It was an concerted effort to oppress Tuhoe ..again, an indigenous people who despite being arguably the most persecuted in NZ history have held onto their customs the most. Which makes them the most different from those judges and the police 'terror unit' with nothing to do, but 'try' to justify there jobs. Don't let fear take over. Find out the history and the facts, instead of just reading or listening to mainstream media. Tuhoe are the most populace people in Te Urewera, where just like the average farm, firearms without licence is common, except Tuhoe didn't buy their land nor invite terror nor govenors who have never lived their.

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They weren't sentenced for being maori, they were sentenced for firearms related charges.

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deport signer, he has no respect for our laws, has cost hard working kiwis millions of tax dollars get shot of him,

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The appellants’ "altruistic motivation"? Since when has dedication to armed revolution and bloodshed been altuistic? Oh, sorry. I know the answer to that - just chant the name of Nelson Mandela, that justifies any atrocity.

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Want to be a Maori with their hand out ? No thanks.

Rather be a proud Kiwi.

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Lemme see: 300 cops deployed (many, prettied-up as Teenage Drongo Ninja Turtles); cost of police op runs into hundreds-of-thousands $s, legal costs = millions $s.

Nett result: Two get sentenced to 9 months' Home Detention; another two, get 2.5 years jail.

The Crown had to show something for all that (face-saving aside). Never, looking hopeful for the Appeal to succeed.

A junk return is one thing; zilch, is something else.

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Had it not been for the MASSIVE 300-police op, the whole country would now be under the Tuhoi jackboot. The cops delivered us from tyranny.

Hallelujah!

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In reply to Te Marama, what a load of racist clap trap, indegionous people rubbish, they have only just arrived here. I am every bit as much an indegionous European New Zealander.

I have been here for longer than theses radical racists that are now facing the consequences of their own ignorant actions.

I have never expected or received state paid handouts like this lot just expect all because they carry a chip on their shoulder!

Tuhoe need to go figure that they are not above the law. These people have got off very lightly.

Thank goodness their appeal application has been quashed. The New Zealand taxpayer has contributed enough to these troughers.

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Sending Tama Iti to jail is a bad move he will find ripe grounds for recruiting more to his rebellion there.....

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So they may have lost the rite of appeal, good job too, but it won't stop there these racist radicals will take this to the next level, as long as the tax payer will continue to pay!

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Gee all this korero reads like sad and bad. People need to get informed, educated, look at the big picture. I mean like pre- treaty, indigenous rights, institutional racism. White is not always right. getting so rude in our country, its looking like south africa, or redneck america. we dont need those kind of attitudes here thankyou v much!!!

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Lai Toy, you are right about the big picture, the only comment you have made that makes any sense.

Racism is a two way street, radical Maori views are at best racist as they usually discriminate against all others that live in our beautiful country.

United we stand divided we fall.

Can't you follow that.?

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