24 May 2012

Police won't apologise over Urewera raids

8:31 pm on 24 May 2012

The police won't apologise for their handling of the Te Urewera raids case, with the Police Commissioner saying there's virtually nothing about the operation he would change.

At the High Court in Auckland on Thursday, Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were sentenced to two and a half years in prison for using firearms and molotov cocktails at camps in Bay of Plenty in 2007.

Their co-accused, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey, have been sentenced informally to nine months, but the judge has adjourned their case to assess whether that term can be served at home.

The raids focused on the community of Ruatoki and the Tuhoe iwi is calling for an apology for what some say was the terrifying way police treated innocent people.

Commissioner Peter Marshall says he makes absolutely no apology for the investigation, the arrests and the prosecution of those involved.

Mr Marshall says he fully supports his staff and the country owes them a debt of gratitude.

He says when officers are dealing with people with military-style weapons they need to be extremely cautious in executing search warrants. Mr Marshall says a dangerous group was broken up.

He say the only thing he would change about the operation at Ruatoki would be not to have armed officers at the road checks.

"No-one was injured; no-one was shot. We found 17 firearms; some of them were loaded; some of them were secreted and at the end of the day we were there for the serious business of criminal offending."

Mr Marshall says he does regret the impact executing the necessary warrants had on the residents of Ruatoki, and he says sorry to them.

Police actions cruel - Tuhoe

At the sentencing in the High Court at Auckland, Justice Hansen said those convicted were establishing a private militia and had serious intent.

A Tuhoe spokesperson, Tamati Kruger, says that is not true, and it was the police that damaged relations with the iwi, not the Urewera Four.

"The judge has made a call. Simply he has taken more faith in the police version of events than Tuhoe version of events. The Tuhoe view is that the police actions were cruel, and really over-stated."

He says the group was not dangerous.