Urewera Four lose appeals

By Hana Garrett-Walker

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

The so-called Urewera Four have lost their appeals against conviction and sentence, but the case could still be taken to the Supreme Court.

In a decision released this afternoon, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

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.

The convictions were challenged on the grounds that:

• Pre-trial publicity meant they could not have a fair trial

• The trial judge's directions on their liability to the jury was incorrect

• Other aspects of the judge's directions were inadequate

• And, the Crown's case on the charge of participating in an organised criminal group was not an offence.

The Court of Appeal found that pre-trial publicity did not create the risk of an unfair trial because there was a significant gap between the publicity and the trial date.

It also found that the trial judge correctly directed the jury that the effect of the Arms Act was that defendants had to show it was more likely than not that they had a lawful purpose for possessing the guns.

"The other aspects of the trial judge's directions were appropriate and did not contain any material omissions," the Court of Appeal found.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of participating in an organised criminal group.

The Court of Appeal found the jury's inability to reach a verdict on that charge could not retrospectively affect the analysis which led to the evidence supporting that charge being admitted in the first place.

The sentence of the four was appealed on the grounds that the judge sentenced them on the factual basis inconsistent with the jury's inability to agree with the charge of participating in an organised criminal group.

The factual findings reached by the trial judge were open to him, and the sentences imposed were within range.

Iti's son, Wairere Iti, said the family was not discounting a Supreme Court appeal, but said it took time and money.

"Dad has parole hearings just around the corner, so we are weighing up our options," he said.

Iti's lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, said he was sure that the appeal would be taken to the Supreme Court.

"The next avenue is the Supreme Court and there's a throwaway line in the judgement from the Court of Appeal saying that some of the matters will have to be argued in the Supreme Court, so obviously they expect it to go there as well," Mr Fairbrother told Radio New Zealand.

Iti had not yet made a direction on whether to take the appeal to the Supreme Court - the final avenue available to the four - but Mr Fairbrother said he was "very sure" Iti would want to take it as far as it could go.

"Tame Iti, right from the outset, has said he's not a terrorist and what he was doing was not harmful to the community and he has been following a peaceful path for a very long time and he thinks his actions have been grossly misinterpreted and distorted."

Bailey's lawyer Val Nisbet said he had not yet read the ruling and could not comment.

- APNZ

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