(stuff.co.nz) The ‘Urewera Four’ sentencing is shaping up as a battle with the Crown believing jail terms are necessary while the four ask for discharges without conviction.
Crown prosecutor Ross Burns has begun what is expected to be a lengthy sentencing by commenting on the unusual nature of how far apart the Crown and defence are in their submissions.
The four – Tame Iti, Urs Signer, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Emily Bailey – escaped a retrial on charges of participating in an organised criminal group but are today being sentenced in the High Court at Auckland for firearms offences.
Burns has told the court the crimes were serious and jail terms were in order.
“The suggestion that police should have gone up to Mr Iti and told him to pull his head in is naive in the extreme. Firearms are not a joke.”
Burns said the four’s defence lawyers will argue for discharges without conviction – in essence, no penalty.
After a six-week trial earlier this year, all but Signer were found guilty of five charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon – Molotov cocktails.
Urs Signer was found guilty on four charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon.
Iti, Kemara and Bailey were found not guilty of four firearms charges, and Signer not guilty of five.
The jury could not decide on the most serious charge laid against the four – participating in an organised criminal group.
The Crown decided this month not to pursue a retrial on that charge, because doing so would add further expense to an already high cost case, and unprecedented media coverage could make it difficult to find an impartial jury.
However the four could still end up behind bars as the penalties for the possession of firearms and restricted weapons are a maximum four-year sentence and $5000 fine.
For Swiss-born New Zealand resident Signer, the sentence could also lead to deportation.
The trial jury were asked to decide whether Iti, Kemara, Bailey and Signer were participating in military training camps in the Urewera ranges in October 2007, or if the four were engaged in a more innocent pursuit, teaching people skills to gain employment in the security industry in the Middle East.
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