Three Rotorua men who were told by senior Mongrel Mob members to dig up the body of Jason Lines or risk being assaulted have been sentenced.
Ryan Lingman, 25, Shannon Apirana, 28, and Sebastien Wineera, 22, appeared in the Rotorua District Court today facing a joint charge of interfering with human remains.
Apirana and Lingman were both sentenced to 180 hours' community work by Judge Tony Snell. Apirana was also disqualified from driving for six months for a failing to stop charge related to the incident.
Wineera was facing additional charges from a later date of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, failing to stop, wilful damage and breach of community work.
He was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment and disqualified from driving for six months. However as he had been remanded in custody for four-and-a-half months, Wineera is eligible for release in two weeks' time.
The trio was due to go to trial but all three men pleaded guilty to the charges the day the trial began.
The offending relates to December 2 last year - the day Lines was buried at an urupa near Rotorua.
The men, who are members of the Eastside Gang in Rotorua, had been drinking with the Mongrel Mob members when senior gang members instructed eight men to go to the urupa and exhume the body and bring it back to them.
Snell said that was so they could have "some form of sending off for Mr Lines".
Lines, 24, from Rotorua, was an associate of the men and had died when his fishing dinghy capsized crossing the Bowentown Bar, south of Waihi Beach, on November 20.
A summary of facts released to the Rotorua Daily Post said two senior patched members told the men to go to the urupa and exhume the coffin and bring it back to them.
They were told they had a choice, but refusing to do as instructed might result in them being assaulted.
Apirana drove the group to the urupa and all the men, apart from Apirana, took turns at digging.
Apirana refused to dig as he was worried about the tikanga (Māori customs) implications and at one point told the others to stop digging, but they didn't listen to him, the summary said.
About 9.30pm, police arrived at the urupa. By this stage the group had managed to dig about 1m down but panicked and fled in the truck when they saw police.
After a high-speed chase police stopped the truck, which Apirana was driving, at the roundabout of Old Taupo and Hemo Gorge Rds.
Snell told the trio their actions had caused a "huge amount of distress" to the family.
"You have breached every form of protocol known to them.
"It was disrespectful to the family and the generations that have passed on."
The other defendants in the case have already been dealt with in the courts.
Rhys James Phillips, 25, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 120 hours' community work and Tiger Ross, 18, and Maurice Ututaonga, 21, previously pleaded guilty and were offered diversion.
Two youths had charges against them dropped in the Rotorua Youth Court.