The police have been heavily criticised for their handling of the 2007 Urewera “terror” raids. Now the legal system is making matters worse:
Urewera raids cases to be heard without jury
The 18 people arrested during the Urewera “terror” raids have been denied a trial by jury. Instead, their cases will be heard by a lone judge.
In December the High Court ruled the case should be heard only by a judge. Despite objections by the defence for the 18 accused, the Court of Appeal yesterday announced it would uphold the High Court ruling.
Why no trial by jury?
Prosecutor Ross Burns said last night the decision was “appropriate”. “I can’t really comment, but the decision is the decision,” he said. “We applied for a judge-alone trial in order to make the whole thing work as smoothly as possible.
Smoother for whom?
Reaction to the original December decision was strong:
Most of the 18 people charged after the Urewera “terror” raids have been denied a jury trial. Fifteen of the group, who are facing firearms charges stemming from police raids in 2007, will be tried before a judge alone when their case goes ahead in August. …
Human rights activists have decried the ruling, saying the high-profile, controversial case should be decided by a jury of peers. …
John Minto, spokesman for the Global Peace and Justice lobby group, said the trial before a judge alone could undermine public confidence in the court’s findings. “I think it is such a high-profile case that the people involved should be judged by their peers. It is quite wrong for it to be heard by a judge alone.
“There is a lot at stake for the Crown in this. A huge amount is invested in this case, not just financially. These are some of the highest-profile charges laid in the last 10 years. The judge will be under enormous pressure to convict people.”
I/S at No Right Turn sums up:
… a jury is the primary signifier of a fair trial in this country. Without one, we can have no confidence in the verdict. And that ought to be deeply concerning, no matter whether you think the accused are innocent or guilty. This is an important issue, and I hope it is appealed to the Supreme Court. The public deserves to know whether the government can get away with this atrocity against justice.
Given the controversy surrounding the original raids, the legal system should be bending over backwards to conduct a process that is above reproach. Instead, they are doing the exact opposite.
All of my posts for March will finish with this note. While life goes on as usual outside Christchurch, let our thoughts be with those who are coping with the aftermath, with the sorrow of so many who were lost, and with the challenges ahead.