Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The verdict

Four and a half years after the initial raids, the jury has finally reached a verdict in the trial or the Urewera Four, finding them guilty of some of the firearms charges, but failing to reach a verdict on the core charge of "participation in a criminal group". On the former, its worth noting that this crime has a reverse onus of proof; once its alleged, and possession is proven, the defendants have to prove themselves innocent. Clearly, they didn't do that to the satisfaction of the jury in all cases, and its not hard to see why. "Bushcraft" is one thing, but training to use guns against people looks very dubious indeed, and something which is hard to see as "lawful or proper" under any circumstances in a peaceful society. Likewise, on at least one of the charges in question - possession of a Molotov cocktail - there seems to be very little scope for there to even be a "lawful and proper" purpose for having one. If you want to do that sort of thing, stick to paintball.

(On the plus side, we can now all look forward to the Police mounting a year-long operation to bust the local Neo-Nazis for their camo-wearing, gun-toting training camps, right? Or is it OK if you're white and have an actual history of murdering people?)

On the organised criminal group charge, its good to see that the government's fantasies of armed rebellion were not believed by the jury. OTOH, their failure to resoundingly reject them means that (fairly or unfairly) Iti, Kemara, Bailey and Signer will be tainted for the rest of their lives. While the government could push for a retrial, that's unlikely to happen; another four and a half year delay will push this well into "undue delay" territory, and see the charges dismissed by the court. So, that's the best resolution we have: the government clearly didn't prove its case. Whether this was worth spending four and a half years and millions of dollars on is left as an exercise for the reader.

We now have a two month wait for sentencing. The maximum sentence for these offences is four years or a $5,000 fine, and the government will be pushing for a harsh sentence on the basis of those unsubstantiated fantasies. We'll just have to see whether the judge buys that, or sentences them for the crimes actually proven, rather than the police's fantasies.