Decision to hold judge-only trial in Urewera case to go to appeal
A decision to try the "Urewera 18" by judge-alone instead of a jury is being appealed against and the trial could yet take place in Rotorua or Wellington.
The judge-alone decision, made by Chief High Court Justice Helen Winkelmann, can now be revealed after a suppression order was lifted at the request of the Crown. The Urewera 18, who include Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, were arrested in multiple raids across the country in October 2007.
The solicitor-general ruled out charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act and the group faces mainly arms charges.
Justice Winkelmann ruled on December 9 that the complex trial would be heard by a judge rather than a jury and that three of the defendants – Maraki Teepa, Tekaumarua Wharepouri and Raunatiri Hunt – would be tried separately.
She suppressed her decision in an attempt to not contaminate a potential jury pool for the trio but the Crown has since argued that it was in the public interest for the decision to be made public.
Prosecutor Ross Burns said the judge-alone decision was being appealed against, and this was confirmed by defence barrister Rodney Harrison, QC.
Mr Burns said applications had been made to transfer the trial to Rotorua and Wellington, instead of Auckland, though a final decision had not yet been made.
Mr Burns said the location decision would be affected by whether it ended up being a jury trial or not, as the idea behind moving the trial to Rotorua was so that it could be heard by a jury of people local to the area.
This would not be a concern if the case were heard by a judge.
Mr Burns said the various applications would probably not delay the trial which was scheduled for 12 weeks starting on May 31.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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