I am surprised by the jail sentences handed down to Tame Iti andÂ Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara in the Urewera 4 case. I had expected substantial fines and at most community service sentences for all of the defendants. The same day the Urewera 4 were sentenced a doctor was fined $1000 for firing a crossbow at a tree 3 meters from a tent of sleeping children at a DOC camp site, so it seemed reasonable to me that people who discharged firearms in the vicinity of noÂ one other than themselves would receive sentences in line with the good doctor’s. But, as it turns out, the Judge in the Urewera 4 case had a different line of reasoning, and it is worrisome.
Even though the Urewera 4 were not found guilty on criminal conspiracy charges, the judge who sentenced them, Rodney Hansen, repeatedly referred to them as if they had been. He spoke of an armed militia with leaders and followers, and he mentioned molotov cocktails–the possession and use of which they were not convicted of–as proof of something sinister going on the outskirts of Ruatoki. But the sentences were supposed to be for violations of the Firearms Act alone–six in the case of Iti, Kemara and Emily Bailey and five in the case of Urs Singer. So why did the judge bring in a line of reasoning at sentencing that is more appropriate to a guilty verdict of criminal conspiracy, and why the relatively harsh penalties for violations that, quite frankly, are fairly routine in some sectors of New Zealand society? In fact, the sentences do not distinguish between the types of firearms used by different individuals, so that those who handled a sawn off shotgun were treated the same as those who handled a bolt action .22. Bringing up the subject of molotovs, militias, purported bombing (but not bus-flinging) plans at sentences for Firearms Act violations is irrelevant and prejudicial.
Lew and I have written previously at some length about the discrepancy between this prosecution and the seemingly blind eye the Police and Courts cast on very similar bush antics by right-wing extremists who make no secret of their hatred for assorted ethnic and religious groups and who have proven histories of violence against those they hate. I shall therefore not repeat what we have said. But what I can say is that these sentences confirm to me that this Crown prosecution was about punishment and deterrence, not justice. One way or another the Crown was going to extract its pound of flesh from at least some of the original defendants, a process that not only involved lengthy delays in providing the defendants with their day in court (by over four years) and the admission of illegally obtained evidence, Â but which also is designed to serve as a warning to others who might be of similar ideological persuasion and direct action mindset. As I have said before, the process was the punishment for the original 18, and these sentences are the final act in that process. It has not been fair, it has not been just, and other than assuage the primordial fears of conservative Pakeha such as Louis Crimp, the National Front and the closet Klansmen that inhabit the right-wing blogosphere, it does nothing to advance respect for the law and the concept of equal treatment for all.
Given that the sentences for Iti and Kemara appear to be disproportionate to the crimes committed, and that the judge’s reasoning was at least in part based upon tangentials that should not have been admitted at the sentencing phase, I would hope that they will be appealed and eventually reversed. Otherwise the conclusion to Operation 8 looks like another case of Pakeha utu on people who dare speak truth to power in unconventional, theatrical and ultimately silly ways.
Am I correct in thinking that there would have been no breach of law if just one of them had a firearms license and had been in direct supervision of the others
Tuhoe getting pointlessly fucked over by the authorities has a long history in NZ, so I guess the judge just has a fondness for tradition.
This, though: Even though the Urewera 4 were not found guilty on criminal conspiracy charges, the judge who sentenced them, Rodney Hansen, repeatedly referred to them as if they had been.
That’s gotta be grounds for appeal of the sentence right there.
Thomas Beagle – you’re not. One of them did have a firearms licence (more than one actually – but only one who was still facing trial).
@Milt – Thats exactly what I thought, it was like the judge was sentencing them based on what they were charged with, rather than what they were convicted of. Truly odd decision to send them to prison on these grounds, and once again the Urewera case will be wasting taxpayer dollars.
So wrong, it seems the appeals must succeed and this travesty of justice overturned. So why rule this way? beggars belief.
(Except that Molotov’s *are* in the Arms Act, or regulatiomns made under: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/1984/0122/latest/DLM95646.html?search=ad_act%40regulation__arms____25_ac%40bn%40rc%40dn%40apub%40aloc%40apri%40apro%40aimp%40bgov%40bloc%40bpri%40bmem%40rpub%40rimp_ac%40rc%40acur%40anif%40bcur%40rinf%40rnif_h_aw&p=1)
I suppose one could argue that the regulation was ‘ultra vires’ (or whatever the correct concept is) because a bottle of petrol isn’t necessarily a weapon unless used as such.
Also, I still don’t understand a concept of lawful purpose? Isn’t it a lawful purpose for shooting a gun off simply that one enjoys it? Or does that bit only apply to white people?
Thomas, not quite. Some of the weapons were restricted, requiring special licenses that Kemara (the licensed user) did not have. Direct supervision is also pretty direct — not defined in the Arms Act, but in practice by each regional Arms Officer (a senior member of the Police), and in the most restrictive implementation it requires that there be no more than one complete (ie, bolt-in) firearm per licensed user at any one time. So you can take your mate shooting, but it’s one gun between you. Kemara was not in direct supervision of the others at all times that they were in possession of weapons (I believe they found rifles where Bailey, Signer and Iti were living).
But, yeah — this is an odd sentence; one that is pretty extravagant given the relatively minor charges of which they were convicted, given that nobody was actually (or even nearly) harmed. Adding to what Pablo writes above, and previously, and as I argued in a previous post on this topic, the sentence proves to those to whom it can be proved that the state is as unjust and oppressive as Iti and other members of his wider circle have been arguing. In spite of what PÄkehÄ with no knowledge of such matters might tell you, he does have incredible mana, and is an intelligent and astute player of social and political games. He is a leader of men, and will be a leader of men in prison, where he will have a willing cohort of young, disenfranchised and alienated MÄori men to lead — all of whom are likely to be much more of a menace to society than the Urewera 4 ever were. Let us hope he uses his powers for good.
And yet it is simultaneously a sentence that makes a mockery of the suggestion that these four were an actual bona fide guerrilla force. Nobody who genuinely thinks the Urewera 4 were a revolutionary threat to the public welfare, peace and tranquility of New Zealand, much less its sovereign power, can be satisfied with a mere 2.5 years, of which they will serve about half if they are very unfortunate. Genuine believers in that narrative would insist on a much harsher sentence. They are not. Even the Police have claimed this laughable term as a victory. I think that tells you how strong they really thought their case was.
So it looks like the Justice Hansen has taken Colonel Trotter’s advice to heart, and has taken the Crown’s Mulligan from the bench (since the Crown failed to perform in front of it). But he has been careful not to extract too much urine, and so the sentence falls between two stools.
The appeals are no doubt being written as we speak, and the Urewera 4 are in a no-lose situation.
I could be wrong but my understanding is that they were not charged under that specific clause. perhaps because no molotovs were actually found and confiscated by the Police (the evidence of the use of such was presented as charred tree trunks and oven bits plus broken glass along with video of people carrying bottles).
If you read the judgement itself, at para 43 Hansen discusses this problem. He says that he doesn’t rely on count 1, but rather on the failure of the legitimacy defence on the firearms charges. Which I find slightly awkward, but does insulate the decision somewhat.
he does have incredible mana, and is an intelligent and astute player of social and political games.
do you think that lying to the judge about training to be security gaurds was part of a well thought out plan?
Keir: That is beyond awkward. It is positively Orwellian. The proof came when he said that the defendants “destroyed the trust between Tuhoe and the Police.” WTF?! Alex put it right in his comment above: he sentenced them based on the charges not on the convictions. As for Peter Marshall’s comments, he pretty much proved my point by saying, repeatedly, that this should serve as a lesson to others.
Lew: I was thinking that Iti would be received very well in jail and that he would serve as a role model for some of those locked up with him. Having someone jailed for his politics rather than any serious crime could be a wake up call for some of those inside (even if it reaffirms that they all were done in by The Man), and will give Iti a captive (no pun intended) forum in which to proselytize. It could also radicalize him beyond theatrics and add an ideological content to the views of those to whom he is preaching. One thing is most likely: although he did not seem to have much in the way of gun or combat skills judging from the video evidence, he certainly will gain some while inside.
Totally agreeing with a post on KP is a rare thing, but must be done on this occasion. There are indeed two political prisoners now in Mt Eden imo.
The state forces (for it was not just the bluebellies, but also the various â€˜spook squadsâ€™) that formed up on the â€œCullen Lineâ€ of the original raid. Later denial of any knowledge of that history in court shows little has changed in the post colonial dynamic.
From a purely pragmatic point of view, this was a dumb, dumb, move by the Crown. Now Iti’s previously fairly silly claim to be like Nelson Mandela has a bit of substance to it. The sentence is long enough for a plausible claim to matyrdom, but short enough to maintain a lot of support on the outside. I expect him to have a large following and a lot of mana when he gets out.
” He is a leader of men, and will be a leader of men in prison, where he will have a willing cohort of young, disenfranchised and alienated MÄori men to lead â€” all of whom are likely to be much more of a menace to society than the Urewera 4 ever were.”
From what you’ve just told me this is probably a good thing – Iti will only lead these young men away from violence and criminality and towards community engagement.
Hugh, I hope so. If that ends up being the case, it leads inevitably to the conclusion conclusion that his previous outreach and community-building activities should have been supported, rather than repressed.
That is why I thought that a few hundred hours of community service would be the best sentence, since they are activists after all and could not well renege on their obligation. Plus they could do a lot of good in a peaceful way. That the judge did not even consider such a thing is indicative of his mindset.
I am also reminded of some people that I knew in a past life who, as members of militant parties, happily got arrested and jailed for acts of civil disobedience/disorder so that they could exhort and recruit in prison. After all, lumpenproletarians with an ideology are the foot soldiers in the revolutionary movement. Even if not revolutionary, an ex-prisoner re-educated in a political way can be, as Hugh says, a force for positive change.
Pablo, a great point — an opportunity for the Crown to force the Urewera 4 to prove their claims to being decent, upstanding citizens who wanted nothing but to help their fellow man, under the greatest possible (official and public) scrutiny, gone begging.
But now it’ll happen anyway — though perhaps not in a way the Crown would prefer. Bailey and Signer were in attendance at the budget protests in Auckland almost immediately upon leaving court, and no doubt they will find ways to continue their activism while serving their sentences.
“…Nobody who genuinely thinks the Urewera 4 were a revolutionary threat to the public welfare, peace and tranquility of New Zealand, much less its sovereign power, can be satisfied with a mere 2.5 years, of which they will serve about half if they are very unfortunate…”
Really? Edward Oxford only got three years. Such a short sentence doesn’t imply no threat at all. It does however accurately summarise the incompetence of the conspiracy.
Oxford was declared insane and spent three years in an insane asylum before being exiled to a penal colony on the other side of the world for the rest of his life. So I stand by my assessment.
“…who dare speak truth to power in unconventional, theatrical and ultimately silly ways.”
Is playing at armed insurrection not something that we would expect the state to respond to? And should we not make it clear whether we support such displays? Many of us do not see much “truth” in silliness or adventurism of this sort(by any political tradition).
The operative term is “playing.” As Iti’s lawyer pointed out on RNZ, what these people were doing was a less accomplished version of the team-building exercises that some corporates got to do by renting the NZSAS for a day. Or, for that matter, a paintball exercise or any other form of para-military role play. To say nothing of the fact that the evidence presented showed something far less than serious combat/terrorism training.
I have written extensively on this here and in other forums so am not going to reprise all that I think is wrong with the case. But it amazes me that you and others choose to ignore the judge’s egregious misuse of sentencing guidelines to punish far beyond what was necessary. Or that you choose to ignore the extremely dubious way the Crown built its case (using illegal evidence) and engaged in unnecessary procedural delays in order to punish while the process was ongoing.
Had the Urewera 18/17/16/5/4 been convicted of criminal conspiracy and evidence conclusively shown that they were plotting and planning one concrete act of violence–just one–then I would agree that they needed to be dealt with more harshly. Armed violence against a democratic state, no matter how flawed that democracy may be, is not on.
But they were not and the sentences, given the options such as those I mention above, are simply disproportionate to the offenses committed.
playing at armed insurrection
That’s the thing though Robert.
Either they were playing, or they weren’t.
A lot of people saying that the state was right to take them seriously, also downplay what they were up to by saying they weren’t a serious threat.
Can’t have it both ways. If they were just playing silly buggers, if they were not a real threat, then the state shouldn’t have acted like they were a real threat.
@pablo: my own views on the process can be found on my site. I have been as critical of that process as anyone (so don’t assume a view on the process). On “egregious”, we shall see, properly, in the appeal, yet my own legal sources are more sanguine about the accuracy of the judge’s view in summing up and sentencing than you.
@Pascal’s Bookie: the state doesn’t make such fine distinctions. I believe that, had they not stuffed up in so many ways, the state would have taken this case to another level, in which 2.5 years would have seemed small beer. Because they stuffed up, and ended up with the firearms charges, they have used that legislation to, in their terms. best effect. That was the info. that was current in W’ton early in the piece, and I have no reason to doubt it.
” The same day the Urewera 4 were sentenced a doctor was fined $1000 for firing a crossbow at a tree 3 meters from a tent of sleeping children at a DOC camp site,..”
That is probably the most penetrating observation I have read on this whole debacle.
the state doesnâ€™t make such fine distinctions
What? The state has spent most of the last five years making fine distinctions, or as we might more properly refer to it, splitting hairs, in re this case.
For what its worth, I think that political activism that puts at risk the welfare and interests of others should be accorded licence to the degree that it has a well defined goal and is done with honesty and integrity.
A political group with weapons for me comes with such a risk. Lying in court is not evidence of honesty or integrity.
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“is playing at armed insurrection not something that we would expect the state to respond to?”
That depends on how fearful one is of a minority group who has some justified grievances against the colonising majority and the State apparatus they built to enforce their position of power.
If you’re one of the Majority, then no doubt you’ll always be looking over your shoulder at what dispossessed minorities are up to.
Funny how we don’t arrest people playing ‘war games’ out in the bush, armed with paintball guns and dressed in camou? Why is that? After all, it’s no biggie to move from paintball guns to real semi-automatics.
You’re right, Robert, they were “playing”. I think that’s a fairly sensible conclusion to come to.
The Majority and the State don’t understand that “play” – paranoia tends to overcome commonsense and arrive at desperate decisions such as Judge Hansen’s,
“â€ A private militia was being established. That is a frightening prospect to our societyâ€¦ What possible other explanation could there be for what the participants were demonstrably doing? â€œ”
Why ‘desperate’, you ask? Because they weren’t being sentenced on any issue relating to terrorism, criminal gangs, etc. Their sentencing related solely to firearms. Judge Hansen added 1 + 1 and got “umptyleven” from what I can see.
This is why many – including fair-minded, rational pakeha – dismiss the paranoia; the rhetoric; and see this for what it is. An over-reaction by some very paranoid people.
Phil, please don’t just post unaccompanied links. Make an argument, however tenuous, unoriginal, self-serving or predictably authoritarian it might be.
The argument is well made at that link. Incompetence does not make the wannbe terrorists not guilty. much of the thrust of the argument here is based on the obvious facts they were incompetent and therefore they should be let off lightly.
It is a basic facet of English common law principles of sentencing that the length of the sentence can be determined by reference to facts that were not included in the evidence required to convict, such as prior convictions and victim impact statements.
It is blatantly obvious and completely in accordance with long accepted legal principles that the judge should have taken into account all information (not just evidence accepted in court) as to the length of sentence.
To compare the use of illegal weapons with neo nazis using paintball is to wilfully miss an obvious point.
The length of the sentence was EVERYTHING to do with justice.
“Funny how we donâ€™t arrest people playing â€˜war gamesâ€™ out in the bush, armed with paintball guns and dressed in camou? Why is that? After all, itâ€™s no biggie to move from paintball guns to real semi-automatics.”
What nonsense Frank. Are you seriously suggesting that the dozens of groups around the country playing paintball on any given Saturday morning (mostly stag parties in my experience) would switch to real guns with live ammunition like it was no big thing?
It would be an opportune time for the Crown to give over to Tuhoe the management and custodianship of Te Urewera National Park.
Aside from it being the right thing to do it would provide the opportunity for some real leadership to come through as it would require genuine skills to do well.
Phil, see, that wasn’t so hard. Yes, I know the argument is made at the other end of the link — I read Stephen Franks too, for my sins — but the point of a comment thread is to make it here, even in brief.
I disagree with Stephen’s — and your — assessment, on slightly different grounds than I disagree with Chris’, though the arguments are similar. With the exception of Justice Hansen’s sentence, I agree the Urewera 4 were treated decently by the courts — though I don’t think they received treatment that was any more fair than anyone else might expect in an open society. But they certainly were not treated justly by the Crown more generally. And none of this negates any of the criticism of Crown conduct at the strategic level — how their conduct was self-defeating, how they have fed the Urewera 4’s growing, and largely unearned, notoriety. Or how the Crown squandered a series of teachable moments on how build, not destroy trust with tangata whenua and activists, and how to deal with low-level dissent, as I said before it all came to trial, by exercising “tolerant indulgence within firm boundaries”. Even if you like the sentence, those criticisms all hold.
NeilM, I agree — but am most surprised to see you saying so, given what I have understood of your views of the case to this point.
Just to add:
It is predictably disappointing that those occupying the poles of this argument — those who think the Urewera 4 were our very own Rebel Alliance, whether they think that a good or a bad thing — have this in common: both are required to exaggerate and propagandise the conduct, intent and capability of the group in order to make their ideologically-based arguments. Pablo wrote about this earlier, and others are still writing about it with unfortunately larger helpings of credulity. TÄme Iti was and is no Guevara, nor Mandela, nor Smith, nor Kurtz, nor Yoda. Anyone who thinks he was is a fool.
Lew – You and Pablo appear to think that because the terrorism charges were dropped, the evidence relating to them originally being brought does not exist.
On the basis of the public evidence I have read and the example of the likes of Molenaar I wholeheartedly support the police going in heavily armed and taking it all very seriously.
At that point the police were not to know they were bumbling loudmouthed fools and had every reason to believe that anything but overwhelming force might turn violent and dangerous.
Pablo – “Bringing up the subject of molotovs, militias, purported bombing (but not bus-flinging) plans at sentences for Firearms Act violations is irrelevant and prejudicial.”
Lew – “But, yeah â€” this is an odd sentence; one that is pretty extravagant given the relatively minor charges of which they were convicted, given that nobody was actually (or even nearly) harmed. ”
Flat wrong according to our principles of common law sentencing. The judge should take into account non evidential information.
Having come across Iti up close he is obviously hugely charismatic to urban metrosexuals.
And tarnishing the likes of Trotter, Franks and myself as closet klansman because we disagree with your misinterpretation of law and justice simply indicates the weakness of your arguments.
That said I completely agree the police and prosecutors made a number of egregious mistakes. Shit happens, they were probably not sure what they were dealing with.
But people doing para-military training using illegal weapons and being recorded making threats against the powers that be is not normal acceptable behaviour in a civilised democracy. They received justice.
Phil, I won’s speak for Pablo, but for mine: not that it doesn’t exist; that it hasn’t been adequately tested, defended or contextualised to meet the standards we expect of evidence. I’ve read the leaked affidavit; assuming you have too, clearly we make very different things of it.
You say that based on what you think the police knew, they weren’t to know that they were bumbling fools — and yet that’s the only thing that’s even remotely clear from the very limited evidence we do have. You think the rest of the evidence reveals a lean, mean state-smashing machine? Be serious.
Weird comment about “urban metrosexuals”. Who do you think you’re describing?
Lew – you are still unable to differentiate between evidence acceptable at a trial and information/evidence that should be taken into account at sentencing. Sentencing rightly has a much wider scope.
You are using hindsight to berate the police for decisions they made in the fog of operations. I am gobsmacked that you seem to think the state should wait until the citizenry or politicians are actually attacked before they should act. 911 and 7/7 are the context.
As for the metrosexual comment, I came across Iti at a prestigious art gallery award ceremony where he was much feted by the powers that be and the cool crowd. I thought him then a harmless intelligent charismatic showman, if people were taken in by him that was their lookout.
But when he turned into an overweight middle aged man running around in the bush firing weapons and talking revolution that takes it to an entirely different place. as Franks makes the point much better, being incompetent does not make them innocent.
I have written too much on this subject dating back to a few days after the arrests (there is a trilogy of essays at Scoop from October and November 2007 should you care to look) to revisit the whole saga. Suffice it to say that I think that the Police and Crown tried to pin a terrorist conspiracy case on 18 people for political as much or more so than for substantive reasons of imminent threat (and that this was known to senior govt officials at the time), got knocked back on several levels under legal scrutiny, and wound up seeing four defendants convicted of firearms charges that are, quite frankly, mundane in the scheme of NZ firearms violations.
Iti’s (and I believe Kemara’s) priors of firearms charges certainly called for something stiffer than a fine, but the judge went beyond his proper mandate in levying the sentences against them. In justifying his decision he engaged in biased speculation about their intentions rather than a dispassionate summary of facts (and the fact that the defense told fanciful stories about what they were doing in the bush certainly gave him leeway when doing so). Yet, when one considers that various recent illegal hunting shooting incidents causing death have resulted in sentences equivalent or less than those handed down to Iti and Kemara, it becomes apparent that this was about selectively teaching a lesson to dissidents rather than meting out proportional justice.
This does not excuse the behavior of the original defendants, whatever their mix of motives (one, for example, spoke to comrades about heading to Gaza to fight Israelis, another was a mentally unhinged gang wanna-be and others were clearly intoxicated when making bellicose statements). Whatever they were up to, as I have repeatedly said, was not a good look. However, making the group out to be a militia in training is over the top. As I said in the trilogy–where was the plot, where was the planning, where was the coordinated preparations for any one specific or concrete act of violence against anyone? While the Urewera 18 certainly warranted the Police’s interest, the raids and the entire Crown case has been, as I said in a previous post, based on exaggeration and hyperbolic conjecture that grossly distorts the threat posed by their activities.
Several hundred hours of non-elective community service and stiff fines would have sent the proper message to all concerned. Instead, what I am left with is the impression of “justice” selectively applied for ideological reasons that have nothing to do with the actual threat posed to NZ society by these folk.
As for my denigrating you and others by name because we disagree on the matter–I did no such thing. My remarks about closet klansmen are directed at those who populate the comment threads of well-known NZ rightwing blogs that I am sure you are very familiar with. For such people the vicarious thirst for revenge, often couched in terms of racial dislike, outweigh any balanced assessment of the facts as presented to the jury. Although you are better than that, I fear that you have allowed ideological enmity to cloud your better judgement on this case.
I don’t think Hansen erred in considering the circumstances of the firearms offending. I actually think the sentencing notes are pretty solid. I don’t agree with the sentences, but I think Hansen followed the law.
(Interestingly see the case of R v Te Kaha,  DCR 48 for an example of a judge sentencing leniently in a case with interesting parallels.)