Appeal over Urewera Four's conviction begins

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Tama Iti, Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey in the High Court in Auckland during the trial of the Urewera Four. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tama Iti, Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey in the High Court in Auckland during the trial of the Urewera Four. Photo / Greg Bowker

The environment in which the Urewera Four lived before their arrest needed to be considered a different world by the jury who found them guilty of firearms charges, Tame Iti's lawyer says.

An appeal against the convictions and sentences of Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey began in the Court of Appeal this morning.

Tuhoe activists Iti and Kemara were jailed for two and a half years in May after being found guilty in the High Court at Auckland of firearms offences relating to the 2007 Urewera raids.

Signer and Bailey were each sentenced to nine months of home detention after they were found guilty of unlawful possession of firearms.

Representing Iti in the Court of Appeal in Wellington today, Russell Fairbrother argued that the trial jury should have been directed by the judge to the difference in the worlds in which they lived and in which the Tuhoe activist lived.

"The world around Ruatoki is remarkably different from the experiences sitting in a jury trial in Auckland," he said.

Specific directions on these differences, particularly around the culture of handling a gun, were lacking, he said.

Although it would be alarming to see someone walking down Auckland's Queen St holding a gun, it would not be to see the same scene in the Ureweras, he said.

Mr Fairbrother said there was nothing inherently unlawful in what happened at the camps.

The jury was not directed on what was lawful or not, nor were they directed on each individual charge, he argued.

"I am saying in this case they needed firm direction," he said.

"It is very easy from the outside to simplify what maybe going on," he said.

But it had to be regarded within the community it was happening in - Ruatoki in the Ureweras.

Kemara's lawyer Gretel Fairbrother said the jury should have been directed on what was lawful, on each individual charge and also on how each individual charge related to each accused.

Justices Mark O'Regan, Terence Arnold and Ellen France each at various times questioned how the judge, in summing up the case to the jury, could have had enough time to go through all of these aspects.

Representing Signer, Chris Stevenson argued that the trial was dominated by invalid considerations because of a shift in allegations in the lead up.

He said originally it was alleged that the four were intending to commit serious violent crimes.

But by the time the case went to trial the allegations were scaled back to say the uprising was a "plan B" if peaceful means to settle Tuhoe grievances did not succeed.

The hearing is due to end tomorrow.

- APNZ

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