Why Urewera charges were dropped

By Edward Gay

Supporters of those accused after the Urewera raids staged a peaceful protest outside the Auckland High Court earlier this week.  Photo / Natalie Slade
Supporters of those accused after the Urewera raids staged a peaceful protest outside the Auckland High Court earlier this week. Photo / Natalie Slade

Charges against 13 of the Urewera accused were dropped because the police gathered their evidence illegally, according to the Supreme Court.

But the court also found that alleged offending by four others was serious enough to allow the Crown to use the evidence.

The Court made the ruling on September 2 but it has been suppressed until today.

Lawyers for the four remaining accused, including Tame Iti, had tried to keep the judgement suppressed.

They argued the Supreme Court judgement and other court decisions could harm their clients' chances of a fair trial.

But yesterday Justice Helen Winkelmann ruled the judgements should be released to the media, with some passages remaining suppressed.

Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the Crown case relies heavily on video footage taken in the Urewera Ranges.

The Crown says footage captured by police shows the group carrying out military training exercises in 2006 and 2007.

The exercises are alleged to have taken place on private Maori-owned land. Police went onto the land after getting search warrants and installed motion-sensor cameras.

A High Court ruling found that putting the cameras on private land was illegal.

But because the Evidence Act allows unlawfully gathered evidence to be used when the alleged crimes are serious and when the evidence can not be gathered any other way, the court ruled the evidence could be used.

Lawyers for the accused appealed against that ruling at the Court of Appeal, which found the cameras installed by police were lawful and the evidence could be used.

But the defendents appealed against the second ruling in the Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this month that the evidence had been gathered illegally.

By a majority verdict of three to two, the court found the evidence could not be used against the 13 accused facing firearms charges alone, but culd be used against the four facing more serious charges.

The decision led to Mr Burns formally offering no evidence against the 13, who faced only firearms charges and justice Rodney Hansen formally discharged them on Monday.

Yesterday, Mr Burns filed a fresh indictment at the High Court in Auckland.

The indictment names Emily Felicity Bailey, Tame Wairere Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Urs Peter Signer.

The Crown alleges that quartet were members of an organised criminal group between November 2006 and October 2007.

It is alleged that the group would have committed violent offences including murder, arson, intentional damage, endangering transport, wounding with intent, injuring with intent, aggravated wounding, discharging a firearm or doing a dangerous act with intent, using a firearm against police, committing a crime with a firearm and kidnapping.

They are also facing firearms charges.

The Crown have listed the guns which they allege the group had. They include a sawn off shot gun, a Lee Enfield .303, a rifle, a sawn off rifle and four other rifles.

It is also alleged that the group had Molotov cocktails and semi-automatic rifles, including an AK47 style rifle.

All four have pleaded not guilty and their trial by jury is set down for February next year.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 29 Aug 2014 01:57:52 Processing Time: 462ms