Tuesday, 20 March 2012

It was years ago, let it go

So the verdict on the Urewera 4 is in, and it is... inconclusive. Some charges have stuck, with each defendant being found guilty of half of the firearms charges against them. However, there were also some not guilty verdicts, mixed in with a big dunno on the major charge, Participation in an Organised Criminal Group. The Crown is considering a retrial. Is this really necessary?

Firstly, the Crown has scored a few token symbolic victories by getting guilty verdicts on some charges. This means they will have sent the desired message to other potential militant groups that they will follow up any and all activity and seek to punish them. The charges are hardly hefty, but they will be enough to secure a sentence of some sort.

Secondly, a vast amount of money has already been spent on these trials, and as this inconclusive verdict shows, there is no guarantee that a retrial would yield any better results. The trial by media has so far been intense, there is no way you could find 12 more potential jurors who hadn't already heard a lot about the case, and probably formed opinions already. The Crown should really look to cut their losses and get out of this one before they really start wasting serious amounts of money. (Well, more serious than the existing waste of money at least)

Lastly, doesn't this whole affair smack of bullying a little? The Crown obviously enjoys a massive advantage in terms of legal, financial and media resources, and yet they still can't decisively prove that the defendants were part of an organised criminal group. The only real power left to the Crown is to continue ruining the lives of the defendants, through endless court demands. A retrial could take years to set in motion, so far it has been almost 5 years just to get to this point. What more could the Crown possibly gain by more court proceedings?

At the end of the day the excuses put forward by the defendants as to why they were running around the bush with guns are just as compelling, if not more compelling, than the idea that they were planning on overthrowing the government. The idea that a band of about 20 poorly trained activists with very little popular support could take on the NZ Army and Police Force and a sizeable proportion of the adult population who would be against them is preposterous. The idea that anyone would be so delusional to think something like that could succeed is equally crazy. On the other hand, the idea that they were learning bushcraft (in which guns can be very useful) and skills to try and land security contract work is not really that odd. People upskill all the time, and the skills the defendants appeared to be trying to learn are in high demand around the world.

Therefore I think it would be a colossal waste of time and money for any retrial to go ahead. The Crown has everything to lose and nothing really to gain, plus it is quite simply a bad look the longer this goes on. These people are no threat to the country. It's time to let them get on with their lives.

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