Bid to quash Urewera conviction

By Edward Gay

Tame Iti, Urs Signer, Emily Felicity Bailey and Te Rangikaiwhiria were on trial in the High Court in Auckland. Picture / NZ Herald
Tame Iti, Urs Signer, Emily Felicity Bailey and Te Rangikaiwhiria were on trial in the High Court in Auckland. Picture / NZ Herald

A lawyer for one of the "Urewera Four'' is planning to have the firearms convictions against his client quashed.

Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were found guilty of firearms charges at the High Court in Auckland after a six week trial in March. The jury found them not guilty of other firearms charges.

However the jury was not able to reach a decision on the main charge, that of belonging to an organised criminal group.

Crown lawyers appeared at the High Court at Auckland this morning where they filed an application for a stay in proceedings which effectively means there will be no re-trial on the charge of belonging to an organised criminal group.

But the Crown was able to bring the case to court only because of the organised criminal group charge.

The Supreme Court ruled in September last year that some of the evidence from police had been gathered illegally but could be used at the trial because of the serious nature of the alleged offending relating to the organised criminal group charge.

Fourteen other accused who were facing firearms charges alone had their charges dropped as a result of the ruling.

Jeremy Bioletti represented Kemara at trial.

Outside court today Mr Bioletti said there was an issue of fairness, now that the organised criminal group charge had "dropped away''.

"It was born out of hysteria about 9/11 and a lot of that hysteria has been seen for what it was, you know, not a lot. All of those people have to live with the stigma and that is a lot.''

The organised criminal group charge alleged that the four were members of a group that had objectives including murder, arson and using guns against the police.

In a memorandum filed with the High Court today, Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the decision not to pursue a retrial was made by a panel that included Crown Solicitor Simon Moore SC.

The decision was then referred to the Acting Solicitor General in Wellington.

"Following the review, the Crown remains satisfied that the charge was properly brought and that the evidence placed before the jury met and still meets the required test of evidential sufficiency.''

Mr Burns said that was backed up by the accused's failure to have the charge dismissed before the trial.

"The jury's failure to agree means no more than that whilst some members were not satisfied of the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, others obviously were.''

Mr Burns outlined reasons for not proceeding with a retrial. He said while the organised criminal group charge was the ``main'' charge, it is unlikely to result in a significant increase in the sentences the accused will receive for their firearms convictions.

He also said five years had passed since the accused were arrested and it was possible that a new trial would not be heard before next year.

"Any retrial would incur further expense in what is already a high cost case.''

Iti and the others are due to be sentenced on their firearms charges later this month. The charges carry a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

THE HIGH COURT TRIAL

* 88 witnesses for the Crown were to be called but after arrangements with the defence only about half appeared.

* The trial was set down for three months but the jury retired towards the end of the fifth week.

* The jurors received over 1300 pages of evidence and deliberated for 19 hours.

- APNZ

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