Show trial underway
The offences by the security forces outweigh any alleged offending by anyone in Tuhoe territory. The only people with masks on, toting guns, menacing the public and acting unlawfully in this case have been the NZ Police - that will not be forgotten.
According to an indictment filed at the Auckland High Court last September, the Crown alleges the accused were members of an organised criminal group between November 2006 and October 2007.
It is alleged that the group would have committed violent offences including murder, arson, intentional damage, endangering transport, wounding with intent, injuring with intent, aggravated wounding, discharging a firearm or doing a dangerous act with intent, using a firearm against police, committing a crime with a firearm and kidnapping. The Crown have also listed the guns which they allege the group had. They include a sawn-off shotgun, a Lee Enfield .303, a rifle, a sawn-off rifle and four other rifles.
It is also alleged that the group had Molotov cocktails and semi-automatic rifles, including an AK47 style rifle.
Thirteen of the original defendants in the case had their charges dropped after the Supreme Court ruled that video footage taken by covert cameras was inadmissible.
The Arms offences are to do with possession rather than use - so they are at the shallow end of the pool as far as possible penalties goes should they be proven. The criminal group association is similarly light despite the tone and scope of the language employed by the prosecution.
I have to note that the charge of swearing an oath to commit an offence (sitting next to to the sedition offences that were thankfully repealed from the Crimes Act following my own case) have not been brought. This would have been the meat in the sandwich which would have shown some form of intent on the part of the defendants to do something criminal, however because that threshold was obviously not met what the Crown is left holding is a limp couple of slices of thin cut white bread. How can it be a criminal group if they never made a commitment to do anything unlawful beyond the mere alleged possession of firearms? There is nothing in that sandwich - no butter, not even margarine.
The charges have been dialled down so significantly that the four and half year wait - during which time the defendants have been under restrictions - should be reason alone to throw it all out. But too much has been spent, invested as I'm sure the NZ Police would view it, in this show trial for the Court not to progress with it such are the pressures from the Crown agencies involved.
Most of the conspiracy offence will hang on the Crown trying to prejudice the Jury by way of using what evidence they have managed to get through the gate to paint a picture of dangerous and unhinged people with lashings of drugs and guns thrown into the turgid mix. If they can get sex in there too somehow they will. The public is a vital part of the equation. The purpose of a show trial is to convince the public of the existence of an enemy - an internal threat - which justifies an enlarged and heavy-handed security force. So far however all the police have managed to achieve is to have replaced the balaclavas on their faces with a lot of egg.