21 Mar 2012

Crown admits any raids retrial could be divisive

10:39 am on 21 March 2012

The Crown prosecutor in the Te Urewera raids trial admits retrying the main count could reignite divisiveness the case has created.

A jury in the Auckland High Court on Tuesday was unable to agree on whether Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were part of an organised criminal group.

They were convicted of the illegal possession of firearms and restricted weapons, namely a Molotov cocktail, in Te Urewera National Park and have been remanded on bail for sentencing on 24 May this year.

The Crown had alleged that the four wanted to create a revolutionary army willing to kidnap and murder to get self-governance for the Tuhoe people.

Crown prosecutor Ross Burns told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday it has been an unusual case and, despite the fact criminal charges are at its heart, there have been strong political overtones.

"That's part of the public interest as well, I suppose. It's been quoted as been a divisive trial as far as this country's concerned. A retrial is obviously going to arouse the same types of emotions and feelings."

Mr Burns admitted it has been an expensive case, but the Crown will consider a range of factors - including the public interest - before deciding whether to pursue the criminal group charge again and cost will not be a determining factor.

"Generally, the rule is that if there's an initial hung jury, the Crown will go a second time for a second trial. Cost shouldn't be the only factor in determining whether that process is followed, but clearly it's got to be taken into consideration."

Ross Burns said a decision has not yet been made on whether to seek jail terms on the guilty verdicts.

Police will not say whether they think a retrial should go ahead.

Iti's lawyer says retrial a waste of time

Tame Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother says the Crown's evidence is not going to get any better and it would be a waste of time to retry the four.

Mr Fairbrother told Morning Report on Wednesday the case was very challenging and his client does not intend to appeal the verdicts.

"I think if you get four or five New Zealanders in a room, they'll have very different ideas on issues that arose in this trial. I think it's a very visceral issue which goes to the heart of who we are as New Zealanders."

Following the verdicts on Tuesday, Mr Fairbrother said the case is important.

"I think it will at least be a footnote in history. I think what Tuhoe do is very much their business and I think we've got to stop judging other people by their own standards.

"This is a country with many, many diverse cultures and many, many diverse ranges of people, and we should be allowed to go about our lawful business."

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara's lawyer Jeremy Bioletti says he will oppose a retrial on the charge that was not decided - because it is so vague and anyone could potentially be found guilty of it.