Tame Iti has 'matured' in prison

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti  has been paroled from jail being found guilty of firearms offences relating to the 2007 Urewera raids Phto / Brett Phibbs
Tuhoe activist Tame Iti has been paroled from jail being found guilty of firearms offences relating to the 2007 Urewera raids Phto / Brett Phibbs

The Parole Board has released its reasons for releasing Tuhoe activist Tame Iti and co-offender Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara on parole.

The pair will be freed having served nine months of a two and a half year prison sentence after being found guilty during a trial last year of six firearms charges and not guilty of four.

The Parole Board decision said Iti had shown leadership qualities in prison, and was described as a role model prisoner.

"His family have all noticed a maturing of Mr Iti, and that he has got on with the sentence as best as he could and has been as helpful as he could be to other inmates.

"Mr Iti, himself, states that he has taken an active role in prison life and that he has grown as a person as a result."

The board did not see that he posed an undue risk to the community. He is to be released tomorrow.

The board said Kemara had been an "exemplary" prisoner.

"All of the material which we have heard or have had before us satisfies us that Mr Kemara does not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community. That being the case, he will be released on parole."

He is to be released on March 4.

Late last month Iti tweeted through family members his hope for release: "As it is Valentine's day ... I wonder if the parole board will show me some love."

During his sentencing in the High Court at Auckland last May, Justice Rodney Hansen said the only appropriate sentence could be one of jail. He described the rama or camps where people were trained in military exercises.

While defence lawyers had said the camps had been opportunities to learn bushcraft and skills to get security work, Justice Hansen said the jury rejected those explanations.

"In my view, they were utterly implausible."

He said it was a mystery why Iti had devoted so much time and money to developing "military capability" when he had been actively involved in Tuhoe negotiations before the Waitangi Tribunal.

He said while there were elements of the TV comedy show Dad's Army about the training, the intent was serious.

"As I view the evidence, in effect a private militia was being established. Whatever the justification, that is a frightening prospect in our society, undermining of our democratic institutions and anathema to our way of life."

He said the actions had damaged the "growing but fragile" trust between the Crown and Tuhoe that goes back to armed conflict in the 19th century.

Justice Hansen said there had been a focus on the damage done by the police raids in the Tuhoe region in October, 2007.

"That should not divert attention from the unlawful activities which necessitated the investigation in the first place."

Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were also found guilty of firearms charges and were sentenced to nine months' home detention, at their home in Parihaka, Taranaki.

- APNZ

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