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Letter to the Editor – Hypocrisy at best?


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Having just heard of the sentencing of Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara  for 2.5 years on firearms charges, I was reminded of another case in Christchurch in 2007 when a musician with the ChCh Symphony Orchestra, Bernard David Shapiro, was charged with unlawful possession of two military style semi-automatic rifles, Powergel explosive, two military flares, a smoke grenade, a thunderflash pyrotechnic used for training and re-enactments, a grenade launcher and an anti-personnel mine. He pleaded not guilty but in 2008 he was found guilty by Judge John Cadenhead on 7 of the 8 charges.

In a reserved judgement in 2009 Judge Cadenhead interpreted the offences as ‘technical breaches’ of the regulations rather than criminal acts and was persuaded by the defence to agree to a ‘discharge without conviction’ under Section 106 of the Sentencing Act because Shapiro was a musician who claimed that a firearms conviction would prejudice his ability to travel as part of his work.

Shapiro was ordered to pay $5000 to the St Johns Ambulance.

Although Shapiro claimed to be looking after the military hardware for another party, he did admit using the assault rifles with high capacity magazines for target practice and shooting goats.

Whilst some might argue that there are no straight comparisons between the two cases, they may indicate that there’s one law for the white middle class and another for brown working class political activists.

Lynn Williams

(19) Comments

  1. Annoyed

    Speaking as a white person, I know when I say justice, I'm definitely not saying "just us". But hey, let us not let the truth get in the way of a catching one-liner. A one-liner you might apply on European people as a whole (if you are happy to ignore the many white people who work pretty hard not to contribute to the disadvantage of others), but could never apply a one-liner like that to Bernie, just by the way.

  2. landless native

    I think the following black American folk aphorism sums it up quite nicely: 'When white people say "Justice," they mean "Just us."

  3. Bearer of discomfort

    Jeez, enough of the hand-wringing and hysteria. There appears to be a group of like-minded (and perhaps connected) peeps posting on here indignant about a supposed slight on Shapiro's name. Though how the original article can be read this way is beyond me. Precious, much? It is clear that the writer is drawing a connection between the different treatment by the justice system (and perhaps Aotearoa society more broadly) of two individuals having faced similar charges. The indictment is on the system(s) not Mr Shapiro, how it can be taken so personally is mind-boggling. Further, while I'm sure Mr Shapiro is a good-hearted individual who has contributed much to his community, a very similar argument can be made about Tame. Anyone familiar with his work is aware of his services to his community particularly with regard to its most vulnerable members (women, 'at-risk' youth) and his activism also demonstrates enormous commitment to the broader Maori community. So if the point of the many testimonials to Shapiro's character is to differentiate him from Tame as a more deserving individual, the argument doesn't stand. As well as being entirely beside the point. FFS get over yourselves.

  4. MC Tierney

    Speculative, slanderous, sensationalist, stupidity is not now, nor ever will be, a substitute for journalism. Mr Shapiro is a man who stands up for what he believes in - and what he most believes in is that his fellow man is a good person. He will (and does) help anyone, regardless of race, belief, or faith. He is a fantastic man, courteous, unfailingly polite to all. Yes, he has made mistakes in the past, but that was in the past. None of us are infallible. He has more than atoned for his sins. If I was 1/100 the man that Mr Shapiro is, I would be a very happy man.

  5. Hamish Oliver

    Ah yes. It's good to to go fishing round in the past hoping to hold up something that is directly relevant to the current issue. Or perhaps in the hope that it might be even slightly logical to make a point of linking the two. Then, when it isn't quite either of those, it's always worthwhile to put it out in the public domain - regardless of whether it makes any sense.

  6. Brett Curtis

    Jeez - as someone who spent 24 yrs in the newspaper industry I'd say you draw a pretty long bow! What a piece of crap journalism - at least do your research! Bernie Shapiro would have to be one of the most community-minded and charitable people I've ever met! Unfortunately you do no service to either the subject of this article or your readers - sheer incompetent writing!

  7. Major Gary Wallace

    Ms Williams et al, I find this rakling up the ashes of old news despicable with regard to Bernard Shapiro- to do this without proper research and up to date information really sums up the modern day journalists and muck raking hacks. What is next? phone hacking, stalking innocent people, working for red top rags who do not value privacy or the honour of ordinary people - just trying to get on with a decent life? Perhaps you should look at the fund-raising and charitable work Bernie and his group has carried out for the benefit of the community, the help and tireless effort during your earthquakes and the aftershocks etc. The least likely to show any signs of racial inequality is this man, who prizes truth, honour, liberty and selfless commitment to those around him without prejudice or malice. Shame on you.

  8. Stephen Mosley

    I have known Mr Shapiro via the internet for a while now but have yet to meet him. However I have read of his exploits, seen various pictures and generally kept tabs on what he's been up to. He may have been foolish, who amongst us haven't at some point, but to drag his name through the mud like this - and for what? I can see no reason except malice. Look to the family man, to the man who put his health on line helping other during the earthquake, to the tireless fund raiser. Here, on the other side of the world we sometimes look to New Zealand as a kind of encapsulated bubble, existing as the best that Britain was during the 50's. Believe me, you have done eveything to dispell that myth.

  9. Bernard Shapiro

    I'm truly humbled. Thanks to you and all those dozens rallying to my defence. And for the record - I earn, as a Classical Musician, not enough to qualify as even lower middle class. I'm just a Dad doing the best he can for his kids who wants to be there when his city needs a boost and all I want is to move on from an ignorant, stupid mistake and be the best I can be, without having my name held up as a poster child for racial hatred. I'm married to a Taiwanese lady to whom I'm dreadfully smitten with two wonderful Eurasian boys, and during a holiday where I embraced the Taiwanese Culture from food to faith our home with all its chattels was rented by a Maori family who left it cleaner than when we left - for which I'm very, very grateful and impressed. To lump me with racial inequality is to charge an innocent man with murder and I am enormously upset by it. An opinion is free, but consider the daggers of speculation please for they wound very, very deeply indeed.

  10. Just somebody

    Wow. You guys are really being wreckless with this one. Bernie is one of the most civic minded people I know. After each major quake event, Bernie was out there shoveling silt with the best of them. Along with acting as a courier to get supplies to where it was most desperately needed. And that's only including the things *I* know about. He worked tirelessly for this community and I'm quite certain there would be a long list if everyone he helped knew to post here. We should feel pretty yucky for dragging someone who has given so much of himself to us into something this nasty. You may be able to build a case that Bernie broke a law. You definitely couldn't argue, however, that Bernie did that with even the slightest intention of intimidating or harming others. Therefor - "Whilst some might argue that there are no straight comparisons between the two cases" <<< Yes, 'some' would. I, along with many others. And I hate being the one to point out the obvious point here, but hey... His family isn't of European descent. For this reason, and the fact that Bernie is just an all-around decent human being, I can imagine he'd be feeling pretty horrified to being brought into a race debate right about now!

  11. ken duncan

    Kia Ora, You really haven't done your homework. yes Bernie made a mistake & like a few of his mates we give him stick about it but we know the person. OH I am Ngai Tahu by the way. Big difference to the training going on in the Tuhoe Rohe. Tuhoe have a geniune grievance that I do support but the associated with the No 2 terrorist grouping in the world. Eco Greens from what I could see. Not to mention training I would class only as military or terrorist in nature. NO way would any of them get even looked at for international security work. That defence was a joke. Took keen interest as former Soldier & a Security consultant who has worked overseas at a very high level. Bernie would be devastated to be drawn into a race debate. He is definitely not middle class as he puts his efforts into helping others. He has a good heart & is always out helping people ahead of His or his families interests. With my vehicle trapped in the CBD after the Feb 22nd earthquake Bernie came to the rescue to help us in anti looting patrols which then became also the Recce for the Student army. This has happened after every major shake excpet June because he was away at the time. Whilst I had work come up in the CBD about a week after Feb shake Bernie carried on getting very ill due to silt. Much of his work was in the area of Aranui regardless of race or creed. If it wasn't for him jumping up & down in the aftermath of the Feb shake Aranui was not slated to get help for at least another four days on the Civil Defence roster. LIke You, Civil Defence here in Christchurch, did not get off their butt & find out the facts. Instead of slandering innocent people, do your homework!

  12. Mike Lester

    "Technical breaches vs criminal acts" appears to be the key. It is clear that Tame Iti and company fell into the latter category, rather than the former. But we can't let that get in the way of a good anti-white rant.... I do find it interesting that Tame Iti, who recently travelled as part of a contemporary dance group and got special approval from government to do so, gets described as "working class" while a musician is described as "white middle class". Also, does the "brown" get extended to rather white looking "political activist" like other members of the "Urewera Four"?

  13. Richard Altorfer

    Is there use naming all the other "weapons"? Us reenactors will commonly have such things at home. Deactivated mines, original fireable ww2 rifles and machine guns, pistols (legally) some even own tanks and armored cars, but does it mean we are terrorists? We use these weapons for educational purposes about history. I myself own two ww2 military rifles plus bayonets. I have a complete military uniform from gas mask to ammunition pouches, but does that make me a suspect to terrorism? Frankly this information is out of date. It's been over 5 years since the court case and it should be left at that. Why continue dragging a good mans name in mud?

  14. Bernard Shapiro

    Do not play the race card using my name. I am a good man, who has done a lot for his community. Ms Williams, perhaps you should research a little more about me and my love of helping those in need - which was my undoing in regards to the court battle. Yes, I was stupid and paid for my naivety. I'd like to move on and be the good man I can be - this is not helping and is severely distressing me.

  15. Pingback: Sentencing the ‘Urewera four’ – an affront to our sense of justice? (Part Wha) « Frankly Speaking…

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  18. Pingback: Sentencing the ‘Urewera four’ – an affront to our sense of justice? « Frankly Speaking…

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