Show trial in stasis
A date has finally been fixed for the High Court trial of 18 people caught up in the Urewera police raids.
In the High Court at Auckland this morning Justice Pamela Andrews set the hearing down for 12 weeks starting on August 8, 2011 - nearly four years after the nationwide police operation in October 2007.
Prosecutor Ross Burns told the judge the crown case would take six weeks and a further six weeks was estimated for the defence.
Justice Andrews said it was not desirable to have a trial date so far out.
She said the only court room that could handle so many defendants over such a lengthy period was Court Room 12, which is in fact two court rooms knocked into one to cope with big cases.
It's even more ridiculous at this point surely than it was back in October of 2007 when it seemed absurd enough.
The Prime Minister and Cabinet have just declared the Tino Rangatiratanga flag will fly on government buildings on Waitangi Day and Tuhoe are nearing a final stage of negotiations with the government over settling their disputes with the Crown. With all this goodwill going on in the Urewera between Crown and Iwi and the de-stigmatisation of the symbols of Maori self-determination the show trial that looked so juicy and spicy to the establishment two years ago will look flaky and inedible in another couple of years when it has been scheduled to commence.
At the moment it looks like the Crown are trying to find a way to back out of it and drop these reduced charges - that's how I see it. But the counter is that they are determined to get an outcome from the long and expensive Operation 8 no matter what. The only way they can do that is to work the conspiracy angle via a show trial - lining hippies and Maori up in front of a jury, play the tapes of the bugged stoner ravings in the bush, display every round and every firearm they seized at every possible point and have the Police paint them all as drug dealing gangster terrorists. To do all that - to orchestrate that type of theatrical undertaking - requires a courtroom of Stalinesque dimensions and maybe they are prepared to wait two or three years for it.
In the meantime the defendants are all on various conditions of bail and therefore under a burden preventing them from risking what would be perhaps in their circles routine protest action (that may end in arrest). This control aspect the police have over them for another two years must be part of the Crown strategy.