Prison sentences for Urewera pair stun whanau, supporters

By Yvonne Tahana, Edward Gay

Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey at the sentencing yesterday.
Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey at the sentencing yesterday.

Iti removed from dock when he joins defiant haka during judge's sentencing.

Tame Iti joined a defiant public gallery haka as he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on firearms charges yesterday - a sentence defence lawyers say they will appeal.

The sentencing yesterday in the High Court at Auckland followed the trial of Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey on charges stemming from the Urewera raids of 2007.

Iti and Kemara were sentenced to two and half years in prison, after being found guilty of six firearms charges and not guilty of four.

Signer and Bailey were both sentenced to nine months' home detention, pending probation reports on whether their home in Parihaka, Taranaki, was a suitable location.

They will return to court next month to hear that decision.

Signer was earlier 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.

People in the public gallery began a haka before Justice Rodney Hansen finished delivering sentence. Iti joined in and was ushered from the dock by prison security staff.

After a six-week trial this year, jurors were unable to reach a decision on the main charge of belonging to an organised criminal group.

Yesterday, supporters and whanau members called the sentences unduly harsh for firearms charges.

Wairere Iti, Iti's oldest son, was calm fronting the media outside the courthouse but said his family were shocked by the unexpected jail term.

"No one thinks it's reasonable.

"I thought we were going to come and see him come out of the courthouse today, pick him up, maybe go and have something to eat - that's not going to happen now."

The family were keeping their spirits up about an appeal.

"I'm proud of him and I think he's unique, he's everything that we need," Mr Iti said. "This is another day we have a new obstacle. Tuhoe have had these obstacles going back generations. We just put our head down and we push through."

Tame Iti's sister-in-law Irene Williams whose emotion was apparent during the haka said Tuhoe would be in "disarray" over the verdict.

Tuhoe leader Tamati Kruger, who gave evidence during the trial on behalf of the defence, said the sentencing had flabbergasted the iwi.

He believed Iti was being sentenced on the charge he was found not guilty of rather than the firearms charges, and on reputation.

"I don't think [a jail sentence] is deserving ... It's just impossible in my view to connect a non-conviction at the trial with the sentence. It's cruel."

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said the public should compare the sentences to those with similar charges and make their own judgment. "How can you justify a botched case? Cover it up by giving a harsh sentence."

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall has apologised to innocent families in Ruatoki caught up in the raids where the "Urewera four" and 14 others were arrested.

"In that context, I very much regret the fear experienced by the innocent people in the Ruatoki Valley - especially the children - and I say sorry to them."

Mr Marshall said police had no option but to act after receiving multiple complaints about an "ever-increasing" number of people collecting firearms, conducting "military-style" drills and talking about killing people.

- NZ Herald

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