Skip to Content »

Sensible sentencing of Urewera four

  • May 24th, 2012

It’s a good day for New Zealand.  Justice Hansen sentencing the Urewera four was having none of  what he called their “utterly implausible” excuses.  Well done, police and prosecutors.

 But a wider dividend goes well past the four.  So called “peace activists” will not rest easier tonight. Their cover is permanently blown by the terrorism evidence even though it could not be used. They know the police know who they are and what they mean by “peace”.  

 A few will some day be grateful they were stopped before the ‘game’ metastasised into something dreadful and lives were ruined or lost, including their own.

 Even if our “terrorists” were more “Dad’s Army” than Baader Meinhof or Red Brigades,  some at least could have become more dangerous. Training camps sift out a hard core from the wannabes. Standard terrorist modus operandi is to process lots of amiable recruits and naive fellow travellers, searching for that nugget – the person willing to kill and be killed for the cause.  Being inept is not being innocuous.  

 Still, we'll now be treated to ‘useful idiot’ solidarity and more public money wasted on appeals

 The defendants have been treated with great fairness and generosity by the New Zealand legal system:

  • the Crown unilaterally dropped charges (on a legal technicality),
  • blanket court suppression withheld damning phone interceptions and recorded conversations in buildings and cars.
  • they were able to avoid answering or accounting for themselves in any way,
  • the could make excuses late and  then only via unsworn propositions advanced by their lawyers.
  • the jury whilst apparently not accepting those excuses (or it would have had to acquit on the Arms Act charges as well) nevertheless could not reach a verdict on the more serious charges;
  • the Crown decision not to retry; and
  • all this funded by $millions in public legal aid. 

 There is no moral victory for the offenders and their dupes.  Refusing to account for yourself, whilst having your lawyers put forward hilarious explanations of innocence  and fighting strenuously to suppress contrary evidence is not a heroic stance.  That is just busy lawyers exploiting an accommodating legal system.  

 And the raids?  Much is made of "proportionality". Only judges from safe leafy suburbs could invent a doctrine of proportionality in dealing with violence. Standard learning in the field shows that violence is least likely in the face of the most disproportionality. It is when force is thought to be balanced, or possibly impotent, that violence becomes worthwhile.

And race had nothing to do with it. Dozens of armed police stormed Dotcom’s castle. Sobered by the Jan Molenaar police killing and siege, it is time to drop the nonsense about Tuhoe being singled out for overbearing treatment.  Given the evidence they had, the police had no choice. 

 What evidence?  Well, the suppressed evidence. Suppression does not mean it does not exist, or that it was unreliable. Fairfax media bravely published some of it and was prosecuted for contempt for that.  Whilst some video footage was eventually used, there was a raft of phone recordings, taped conversations in buildings and cars which was not.  Once the terrorism charges were dropped, without other serious charges this interception evidence could not be used and was vigorously suppressed by the courts.

 There have been claims that the suppressed evidence just shows silly people doing naïve things.  Just Pub talk.  Killing John Key with a cow. 

 The useful idiots seem to be banking on a vast collective amnesia.  But too many people have seen the evidence, including retained copies of the excerpts published by the Post.  Though expunged from the public record in New Zealand, it cannot be removed from the international internet.   

In this case it will be just too laughable for the useful ones to maintain a critical mass of mainstream media belief that the arrested people just spent months playing hide and seek and discussing Maori medicine. 

 The intercepted conversations are similar to those recorded by police in “Operation Pendennis” in Australia the year before, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of a group of Islamic terrorists and wannabe terrorists. They had been planning to cause considerable loss of life. Some confessed or entered guilty pleas.  In both cases, much of the intercepted talk is silly, mundane, over excited  or boastful.  In Australia the judge described the antics as ‘keystone cops” and in one instance the trainees actually opened fire with their new rifles before getting out of their car.  There was similar sinister material in both cases.    

 All of us, including the would-be terrorists, can sleep easier because some rough men  were discourteous early one morning four years ago




  • Mark
  • May 24th, 2012
  • 5:22 pm


  • Roger Strong
  • May 25th, 2012
  • 5:19 pm

Well written-the mainstream press seem unable to write any
sense on the subject.


[…] Franks blogs: It’s a good day for New Zealand.  Justice Hansen sentencing the Urewera four was having none […]

  • Ross
  • May 28th, 2012
  • 11:13 am

"The defendants have been treated with great fairness and generosity by the New Zealand legal system".
That's your not-so-objective opinion. Given that the case is not over and done with, your view might be a case of premature exclamation.

  • alex
  • May 28th, 2012
  • 1:44 pm

I am very concerned that the Judge made a point of saying the defendants were part of a private militia, when in reality no such charges were proven. It makes for a very dangerous precedent that someone can be sentenced based on a charge they were not found guilty of. 

  • L. Hansen
  • May 28th, 2012
  • 10:16 pm

They were never charged with being in a private militia and the Judge is perfectly entitled to make conclusions based on evidence he accepts as proven, as to what the purpose of the unlawful possession was for.


To Alex
The charges on which the defendants were convicted are unusual. The law places an onus on them to establish they had a proper purpose for using the firearms. They attempted to discharge it by having their counsel come up with (ludicrous as it turned out) possibilities. To convict the jury had to disbelieve those possibilities. That left the initial Police accusations of improper purposes effectively undisturbed. The judge properly had regard to that.

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>