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.