22 Aug 2012

Iti's lawyer criticises Urewera trial judge

10:39 pm on 22 August 2012

The lawyer for convicted Tuhoe activist Tame Iti has criticised directions given to the jury by the Urewera raids trial judge.

Russell Fairbrother was one of four lawyers challenging firearms convictions and sentences for the group known as the 'Urewera Four' in the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Wednesday.

In March this year, Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were found guilty of firearms charges.

Iti and Kemara were jailed for two-and-a half-years, while Signer and Bailey were given nine months' home detention.

Mr Fairbrother told the three Court of Appeal judges that the jury was not given enough context as to why the accused were carrying guns in Te Urewera National Park in 2007.

He said the trial judge, Justice Hansen, bought into the Crown's argument as to why the accused were carrying guns in the bush.

"If the Crown had stopped at just the unlawful purpose was military style training camps as alleged, perhaps the whole trial would have been quite different. But my friend opened that it was for serious violent offences and closed on that, and that was really the bait which everybody took."

Mr Fairbrother said the settlement of Ruatoki - the main target for the 2007 police raids - is a remarkably different world to those sitting on a jury trial, and what was going on needed to be seen through the eyes of the people who lived there.

He said Justice Hansen should have told the jury to look at the environment in which the activities were happening, which he said were on private property and out of harm's way.

Mr Fairbrother said the jury was directed as if military-style training was inherently bad, when it should have been presented as something that might also have been done for amusement or for cultural reasons.

However, the Crown said Justice Hansen did remind the jury to consider a sense of injustice harboured by the Tuhoe people.

Iti and Kemara's lawyers have asked for the sentences to be reduced to community-based ones.

Signer and Bailey's lawyers are calling for discharge without conviction.