Mar 21, 2012
The Urewera failure
So the Urewera verdict is in and it’s a fizzer. The case, triggered by the 2007 terror raids, has come to an anticlimactic end with the jury finding the remaining defendants guilty on some firearms charges – which were largely minor – and failing to reach a verdict on whether or not the four were part of an organised criminal group. An organised criminal group is a group of 3 or more people who have as their objective(s) obtaining material benefit from the commission of crime(s) punishable by four years or more. This charge, the supposedly serious charge, is so far removed from what the Police and the government of the day were alleging in 2007.
Casting our minds back to 2007, the Police were claiming that they foiled a paramilitary plot and hijacked plans to, among others things, assassinate the Prime Minister. Terrorism charges were laid, but the Solicitor-General decided that terrorism charges would not hold. The Police and Crown Law, however, charged ahead. Failure after failure followed and charges against the majority of the defendants proved unsustainable and, as we know, the only serious charge the Police and Crown Law had against the remaining defendants resulted in a hung jury. Whatever way you look at it, this is an epic defeat for the Crown. Thousands of man hours, millions of dollars and the might of the New Zealand Government could not bring down a bunch of pohara Maori and Pakeha activists. Tame Iti is now further entrenched in Maori mythology and rightly so.
The government and the Police owe Tuhoe an apology. Ruatoki was attacked, and I deliberately use the word attacked, as school buses were searched by armed police, kaumatua and kuia were illegally detained, men and women were man handled and mistreated all for a few firearm charges. Charges that are so remote from what the Police were alleging. It’s a sorry affair.
Finally, I think the Maori Party must be acknowledged for the work they did in the wake of the raids and what they continue to do. Pita Sharples was right, at least in respect of Tuhoe, when he said the raids set race relations back 100 years.