Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Hone Harawira found guilty of failing to comply with police

Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira outside Auckland District Court. Photo / NZ Herald
Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira outside Auckland District Court. Photo / NZ Herald

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has been found guilty of failing to comply with a police instruction at an Auckland housing protest last year.

He was fined $500 and ordered to pay $132 court costs.

The decision was delivered by Judge Stan Thorburn at Auckland District Court this afternoon.

Harawira was arrested last October when he joined protesters fighting the removal of state houses in the east Auckland suburb of Glen Innes.

He was alleged to have locked himself in his car and turned his music up loud, blocking a Housing New Zealand-contracted truck and trailer unit from leaving with one of the homes.

Police told him several times to move but he refused and they eventually smashed a window and arrested him.

Harawira pleaded not guilty and, during a three-day hearing that ended this afternoon, said he did not move the car because his headlights were ensuring the safety of three female protesters on the roof of the house being removed.

Harawira, who represented himself, said there had been previous occasions when women had been "severely beaten" at the Glenn Innes protest, something police denied vigorously.

The protesters would be safe as long as an MP had his lights trained on the roof, Harawira said.

The Te Tai Tokerau MP called 12 witnesses during the hearing, prompting Judge Thorburn to try and prevent him prolonging what should have been a straightforward matter.

Delivering his decision, Judge Thorburn said much of their evidence could be categorised as irrelevant and in standard legal proceedings would not have been permissible. However, he acknowledged the depth of feeling that the people of Glen Innes had about the issue.

"It is right sometimes in the District Court, which is proclaimed as the people's court, that there is a relaxation of the protocols so that people's voices can be heard."

He compared the conflict between the affected Glen Innes residents and the developers moving in to being "like tectonic plates rubbing together".

"The macro picture is represented by the plans of Housing New Zealand and the operation of removal companies, and by the resources called on by the police. The micro picture is represented ... by the voices of the occupants or the residents that are subject to the changes proposed," he said.

"I would not like it to be thought that in concluding as I have that I have skipped lightly over that."

However, he said he had no difficulty concluding that Harawira had refused to communicate with the police for 30 - 40 minutes while they were trying to get him to move.

He accepted that the protesters' intentions were peaceful; "however, there has to be a caveat that the protesters were prepared to behave unlawfully".

Judge Thorburn also did not doubt that Harawira had been shining his headlights at the house to ensure the safety of the protesters on the roof.

But this was not relevant to the charge, nor was Harawira's assertion that the truck could have exited the premises by a different route.

During the three-day hearing, dozens of Harawira's supporters turned up to the court, waiving Mana Party flags and holding banners with slogans in support of the affected Glen Innes residents.

- APNZ

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