24 May 2012

Prison sentences for two of Urewera Four

8:45 pm on 24 May 2012

A High Court judge in Auckland said those convicted following the Urewera raids were establishing a private militia at camps near Ruatoki in Bay of Plenty, and had serious intent.

Tame Iti and the man Justice Hansen called Iti's lieutenant, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, have been sentenced to two years and six months' jail for having firearms and molotov cocktails at the camps. Both plan to appeal against their conviction and sentence.

Justice Hansen told the court on Thursday there were some elements of "Dad's Army" in the group, but the firearms were used to train participants in military style exercises.

"In effect a private militia was being established," Justice Hansen said. "That is a frightening prospect in our society; undermining of our democratic institutions and anathema to our way of life."

A jury in March found Iti, Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey guilty of having firearms and molotov cocktails.

The jury was not able to decide on the main charge, of being part of an organised criminal group.

On Thursday, Justice Hansen indicated Signer and Bailey would be sentenced to a term of nine months, but adjourned their case to look into whether that can be served at home.

Iti and his supporters in the gallery performed a haka as the judge delivered his sentence. Bailey cried while hers was delivered, and other people shook and and cried after the sentences were delivered.

The four were among 18 people originally arrested in police raids in Auckland, Wellington and the Bay of Plenty in 2007.

Sentences justify case - Crown

The Crown says the jail term given to Iti and Kemara justifies the investigation and trial.

Crown prosecutor Ross Burns says the sentences are entirely appropriate.

"We've always said it was serious ... It's been a long trial; a long investigation but for serious offending; and the investigation and the trial process is entirely justified. I think that's been demonstrated by the decision the judge has made today."

Pair to appeal

Iti and Kemara are to appeal, with Iti's lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, saying the judge shouldn't have speculated what the group was doing in the bush.

He says his client was never convicted of being part of an organised criminal group and that means their motivation wasn't relevant.

"When the Section 98a - the criminal group charge - went, then the question of what the motivation was wasn't really very relevant."

Mr Fairbrother says Iti is remaining philosophical about his sentence.

But Iti's family says they are shocked and devastated the Tuhoe kaumatua has been sent to jail.

His son, Toi Iti, spoke on behalf of his whanau, describing the jail sentence as a letdown.