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Urewera verdict: Crown mulls retrial

By Edward Gay

Tame Iti talks with media outside the High Court in Auckland after he was found guilty on some charges in trial regarding the Urewera Raids.  Photo / Greg Bowker
Tame Iti talks with media outside the High Court in Auckland after he was found guilty on some charges in trial regarding the Urewera Raids. Photo / Greg Bowker

The "Urewera Four'' have been found guilty of some firearms charges but the jurors were not able to reach a decision on the lead charge of belonging to an organised criminal group.

The public gallery, which has been full since the first day of the trial six weeks ago stood as the various charges were read out and the juror forewoman read out the verdicts.

Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara was found guilty of six firearms charges and not guilty of four. Urs Signer was found guilty of five firearms charges and not guilty of five. Emily Bailey was found guilty of six firearms charges and not guilty of four.

The four had been accused of being involved in military-style training camps after police raids in Ruatoki, Auckland and Wellington four years ago.

See bottom of story for an interactive timeline of the Urewera charges and trial.

The jury forewoman said the jurors could not reach a verdict on the lead charge of belonging to an organised criminal group.

All four of the accused have been granted bail. However the legal arguments can not be reported because they were discussed in chambers.

Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the Crown will consider a retrial on the lead charge of belonging to an organised criminal group, which the jurors could not reach a decision on.

"Ordinarily the Crown would proceed to a retrial but it will have to consider it carefully in this case."

Tame Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother said his client maintains he has done nothing wrong.

Asked about a possible retrial on the charge of belonging to an organised criminal group, Mr Fairbrother said Iti was a patient man. "He'll wait 100 years to get this right."

But he added that his client was pleased with the outcome of the trial.

"It's always been a very socially and politically divisive allegation, and I think Tame is pleased with the way the defence has gone and the work that the jury's done.''

Mr Fairbrother doubted it would proceed to a retrial.

"I can't see the Crown evidence getting any better. That jury has worked very hard, they've concentrated right throughout this trial, they've obviously considered each charge separately and they couldn't reach a verdict.''

Mr Fairbrother felt the trial would go down as "at least a footnote in history''.

"What Tuhoe do is very much their business, and I think we've got to stop judging other people by our understandings. This is a country with many, many diverse cultures and many, many ranges of people and we should be able to go about our lawful business,'' he said.

Emily Bailey's lawyer Val Nisbet said the first count was "always going to be a challenge for any jury, and it will remain so."

He said defence lawyers were not aware of whether or not there would be a retrial but that was a decision for the Crown.

"We all hope there isn't a retrial because this has gone on enough, not only for the accused but the whole country. It needs to be put to bed," he said.

Urs Signer's lawyer Chris Stevenson said he would not comment because of the possibility of a retrial.

The matter will be sent to an Auckland High Court callover date next month.

The four will be sentenced on firearms charges in May.

Kemara's lawyer Jeremy Bioletti said he was "rapt" by the result.

He said the participating in an organised criminal group charge was a "defacto terrrorism allegation" which the Crown had failed to substantiate.

"And the firearms charges were only every a holding charge that were laid when these people were first charged in October 2007 so I'm very happy with the result."

Mr Bioletti said he would be opposing any retrial, but if it came to that "it doesn't faze me".

"(The belonging to an organised criminal group charge) is so nebulous that anybody can potentially be guilty of anything," he said.


Nearly 20 hours of deliberation

The trial at the High Court at Auckland had been into its sixth week with the transcript of evidence running to over 1300 pages long.

After deliberating for about 19 hours since Thursday, the jurors returned their verdict late this afternoon.

Earlier this afternoon, Justice Rodney Hansen told the jurors that he had received their note to say they had reached verdicts on the firearms charges.

He said they could consider reaching a majority verdict on the charge of being a member of an organised criminal group, which would be 10 to one jurors agreeing on a verdict.

"If you do not think that is possible for the 10 of you to agree on a particular verdict in relation to any of the accused, I would ask you to let me know.''

Yesterday the jurors indicated they were having "some difficulty'' with the organised criminal group charge and asked whether they could move on to the firearms charges.
Justice Hansen told the jurors they could consider the charges in any order that they liked.

"If it were to be the case that you had been focusing on count one [of being a member of an organised criminal group] and hadn't at this stage commenced with the other counts in the indictment, you are perfectly at liberty to set count one aside and work through the remainder of the counts in the indictment.''

He said working through the other counts may help them to resolve any issues they had in relation to count one, the organised criminal group charge.

The jurors have photo booklets and more than 1300 pages of transcript of evidence to draw on during their deliberations.

They have also been told that they can review footage captured by covert police cameras in the Urewera bush.

The 11 jurors resumed their deliberations this morning at the High Court at Auckland.

They began sitting on Thursday and have now been deliberating for 19 hours.

They retired shortly before midday on Thursday but did not resume on Friday after one of the jurors injured herself at home.

THE CASE SO FAR

* 88 witnesses for the Crown were to be called, however after arrangements with the defence only about half appeared.

* Four witnesses were called for Tame Iti and three for Urs Signer.

* The trial was set down for three months but the jury retired towards the end of the fifth week.

- APNZ

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