4/4/07

Tame Iti's firearm convictions overturned on appeal



Maori activist Tame Iti has had his convictions for unlawfully possessing a firearm overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Iti, of the Tuhoe iwi, discharged a shotgun during a welcome for the arrival of the Waitangi Tribunal to hear historical grievance claims at a marae at Ruatoki, in the eastern Bay of Plenty in January 2005.

One shot shredded a New Zealand flag.

Iti was found guilty under the Arms Act on two counts of possessing a firearm in a public place except for some lawful purpose and was fined $300.

He appealed the convictions on the grounds that crown law did not stretch to the ceremonial area in front of a marae's wharenui.

The Appeal Court judges said they had two issues to consider in the appeal. Firstly, whether the atea (area) of Tauaarau marae was a "public place" and, secondly, whether Iti's acknowledged possession of the gun was "without lawful purpose".

In their findings, Justices Hammond, O'Regan and Wilson said it was important to be clear that the case did not question the "important historic event" taking place that day, and events were considered in that context.

Iti argued that he possessed the shotgun "for the express purpose of welcoming the Waitangi Tribunal". This included the discharging of live rounds.

The judges found that the consequence of "requisite harm" from Iti's actions had not been established to a criminal standard of proof.

The prosecution must therefore fail and the convictions be set aside, they ruled.

They warned that discharging the live rounds was "a foolhardy enterprise" and they hoped that Tuhoe recognised that, and would not repeat the behaviour again "even in the unique setting of something like this particular event".


Tame Iti's convictions overturnedWed-04-Apr-2007 11:53am


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Maori activist Tame Iti has had his convictions for unlawfully possessing a firearm overturned by the Court of Appeal.

He discharged a shotgun during a welcome for the Waitangi Tribunal to hear historical grievance claims at a Ruatoki marae at Ruatoki in 2005. One shot shredded a New Zealand flag.

The Tuhoe activist was found guilty under the Arms Act on two counts of possessing a firearm in a public place except for some lawful purpose.

He appealed the convictions on the grounds that crown law did not stretch to the ceremonial area in front of a marae's wharenui.

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Ana said...

Wrangle over firearm charges 'ridiculous' - Tame Iti


It was "ridiculous" the ceremonial firing of a gun during a historic powhiri at Tauaarau marae had led to a two-year legal wrangle, Maori activist Tame Iti said today.

Iti had his two convictions for unlawful possession of a firearm in a public place in January 2005 quashed by the Court of Appeal today.

The Court found the prosecution had failed to prove Iti was in possession of the firearm without lawful purpose, saying there was insufficient evidence of harm, which was necessary to prove the charge.

The charges stem from January 16, 2005, when the Waitangi Tribunal was welcomed onto the marae to hear historical grievance claims.

During the welcome, a re-enactment of the 1860 land confiscations was played out, involving Tuhoe warriors on horseback, burning vehicles representing the scorched earth policy of the Crown at the time, and a "fearsome haka," Justice Grant Hammond said in the judgement today.

The event was historic, in the sense it was the first time Tuhoe people were able to air their grievances to the Waitangi Tribunal on their own land.

Iti discharged the gun twice, once into an empty paddock, and again into a New Zealand flag.

Despite a police presence at the ceremony, no complaint was raised at the time, but Iti was charged three weeks later, after the incident was raised in Parliament.

He was convicted by a District Court Judge in June 2005, but appealed on two grounds: that the area in front of Tauaarau marae was not a public place; and that the Crown had not proved he was acting without lawful purpose.

The defence failed on the first ground, but the three justices agreed with the second, and overturned the convictions.

Today, Iti said he was pleased with the judgement, but thought it was ridiculous it had gone so far.

The charges had stemmed from then Act MP Stephen Franks sitting at home in front of his television and watching the event on the news, and writing a letter of complaint to the police commissioner, he said.

He had no problem with the police, but was annoyed by the political intervention.

"It's a waste of your time, a waste of my time, a waste of the judicial system, waste of time of the police," he said.

"It would have cost the tax payer money.

"I'm not too sure what they're trying to prove."

Tuhoe would always be in conflict with the colonial justice system, as long as it undermined the indigenous people of this country, Iti said.

He was concerned the way the event had been portrayed, which made it look as if he was the only person there with a firearm, when in fact several Tuhoe members had firearms at the event.

The judgement had been good timing, as Iti would be able to celebrate with 20,000 Tuhoe members who were gathering over Easter weekend for the Tuhoe Festival.

"I was thinking of putting the hat out there if there was a conviction," he said.

"But I no longer need to do that."

Iti's lawyer, Annette Sykes, said the defence had argued "since day one" that the Crown had failed to establish he had behaved unlawfully.

"And now the Court of Appeal has squarely found that."

She said Iti was "totally vindicated".

"Tame should never have been charged."

- NZPA