Defence lawyers in the trial of five Black Power gang members charged after an armed standoff with Mongrel Mob opponents in Whakatāne in January 2017 are today arguing in their clients' favour.

On trial in the High Court at Rotorua are Benjamin Biddle, Whitu Taipeti, Codie Taitapanui, Te Reneti Tarau and Taumata Tawhai.

For Biddle, Nicholas Duff assured the jury his client had neither assisted nor encouraged the man who pulled the trigger that led to the firing of two shots at the height of the fracas.

Rather, like half Whakatāne, he'd gone to see what was going on when the armed Mongrel Mob funeral procession arrived at the town's outskirts.


He also disputed Biddle had been present when a gang member was "de-patched" some days earlier, branding that claim from the Crown irrelevant.

He accused at least one prosecution witness of being unreliable by exaggerating that he'd seen bats and poles, something video footage showing only one bat disproved.

"The video evidence is the reliable evidence of what happened. Other evidence is not reliable," he said.

Duff rubbished allegations Biddle had taken part in the riot that broke out when the two gangs faced off, that he was a member of an organised criminal group with the intention of injuring the Mongrel Mob or police, or used a firearm recklessly.

Taipeti's lawyer, Jonathan Briscoe, told jurors they could be forgiven for thinking the Crown had thrown all its resources at Black Power and ignored the Mongrel Mob.

He said it couldn't be denied his client was challenging the Mongrel Mob and had a bat but was being staunch, nothing more.

"If he knew firearms were going to be presented by either side do you really think he would have put himself clearly in the line of fire from both directions?" Briscoe said.

The fact the firearms had been taken from the boot of his car didn't prove he knew they were there or that he intentionally encouraged the shooter to fire off shots.


"I put it to you this is all guesswork on the Crown's part and guesswork has no role in your deliberations."

He argued there was no evidence Taipeti had said, "hey bros, let's go to Arawa Rd and shoot some police and the Mongrel Mob".

He instructed the jury the only verdict they could reach relating to Taipeti was not guilty on all counts.

Harry Edward, who appeared for Taitapanui, said he wasn't going to say his client knew nothing of what went on and was pure as the driven snow but insisted what he did do didn't make him criminally liable.

"As he put it that is bulls***," Edward claimed.

Reading from Taitapanui's statement to a detective seven months after the fracas, he highlighted that although Taitapanui admitted taking a broken, unloaded gun from a car boot, he'd claimed he was just being stupid thinking he had to prove himself to "the bros" by "trying to be the man".

Edward highlighted that as soon as shots were fired Taitapanui was out of there.

"On any of these charges there is no proof beyond reasonable proof you can rely on," he insisted.

The defendants face charges of rioting, participating in an organised criminal group, using a firearm against law enforcement officers and recklessly discharging firearms.

Charges of unlawful possession of a firearm against Biddle, Taipeti and Tawhai have also been dismissed but remain against Taitapanui and Tarau.

Defence submissions are continuing.