20 Mar 2012

Urewera four convicted on firearms charges only

9:30 pm on 20 March 2012

The jury in the trial of four people accused of taking part in military-style camps has found them all guilty of firearms charges but has not been able to reach a verdict - even a majority one - on whether they were part of a criminal group.

Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey have been convicted in the High Court at Auckland of the illegal possession of firearms and restricted weapons in Te Urewera National Park in 2007.

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

Delivering its verdicts after three days of deliberations, the jury found Iti, Kemara and Bailey guilty on five firearms charges and one charge of possession of a restricted weapon.

Signer was found guilty of four charges of illegal possession of a firearm, and one of possession of a restricted weapon.

The four have been remanded on bail until 24 May. The bail decision was greeted by cheering from their supporters in the High Court at Auckland late on Tuesday afternoon.

Iti's lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, says the fact that his client was granted bail suggests there will not be a jail sentence for the firearms charges.

No indication yet of retrial being sought

The Crown has not yet indicated whether it will seek a retrial on the charge the jury could not agree on.

Crown Prosecutor Ross Burns says however that he's not deterred by the failure of the jury to reach a verdict, and the outcome was not a failure on the Crown's part.

"It happens all the time that juries don't reach verdicts on charges, and people are retried on the same evidence," he says.

Mr Burns says the Crown will now regroup and decide where to go from here.

The officer in charge of the Urewera raids operation, Detective Inspector Bruce Good, says police did their job at the time in stopping an activity they believed was alarming, and he was never worried about what the verdict would be.