18 Oct 2008

17 face firearms charges following police raids

6:58 pm on 18 October 2008

Seventeen people before the courts following nationwide police raids last year have been ordered to stand trial on firearms charges.

But some charges have been dropped because there is not enough evidence.

Earlier, the Solicitor-General refused to allow police to lay charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act in November last year, citing insufficient evidence against the 18 accused.

In total, they faced 343 charges of illegally possessing fire arms, ammunition or explosives.

However, Auckland District Court judge Mark Perkins ruled on Friday there was insufficient evidence on a number of the charges to proceed to trial on them.

All charges against one of the accused, Rongomai Bailey, were dropped on Friday. Mr Bailey says it is a relief, but it has been a frustrating process.

The other 17, including long-time protester Tame Iti, were committed to stand trial next year on the remaining arms charges.

Depositions began in early September in the Auckland District Court. Suppression orders applied to much of the hearing.

Mr Iti says he will go against the advice of the police and welcome those facing charges on to a marae in Ruatoki on Saturday.

He says the trouble has been caused unnecessarily by the police and the Crown, which tried to strip people of their mana and dignity.