Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The cost

It is the 8th of November 2007 at 3.30pm, we are in the park next to Symonds St cemetery. We are waiting. The solicitor general is going to announce whether the crown is going to persue terrorism charges against our friends. We had followed them to Auckland and now we are waiting until 4pm. A few days earlier, I had decided that we are going to win, and I am holding on to my own conviction as a talisman.

Some people are going to get snacks - I find some coins and ask for Whittakers Dark Almond Chocolate. "And if you don't find it they won't get bail."

"Don't say that!" Risks are not acceptable.

They come back with chocolate, but not Dark Almond. What have I done? Someone else there digs to the bottom of her bag and finds a few almonds and I eat the almonds and the chocolate together - that will have to do.

At 4.01 the solicitor general announces that the there will be no terrorism charges.


I was in my office of the 29th of August 2011 - engaging in magical thinking. I had almonds and dark chocolate and ate them together. The Supere Court was going to deliver the most important legal decision in the case since the solicitor general decided not to press terrorism charges sometime that week. I decided that they were going to win. I couldn't think of anything else to do.

The judgement came down about midday Friday.  It wasn't as clear as the decision in the park, although it was definitely good news.  I tried to guess what it meant, my mind racing through what I knew about the case and the law.


Today the crown dropped the charges against all but four of the defendants (obviously there is more to say - but there a quite a few suppression orders in play at this point).


18 people were arrested during the raids on October 15th 2007. Another 4 were arrested in the first half of 2008.

2 had their charges dealt with reasonably quickly in 2007.

1 pled guilty and got discharged without conviction in 2008.

1 had his case thrown out at the depositions hearing in 2008.

1 died in 2011.

13 have had their charges dropped today.

4 still face charges under the Arms Act and of "being part of an organised criminal group"


I have never been able to take the charge of "being part of organised criminal group" seriously.  I think it's the word organised.  That and the fact that I've read the legislation and know enough about the crown case to see a non-overlap.  It is appalling that these ridiculous charges mean that those four people, and those around them, will have to continue to pay the costs of being a defendant.


The 14 people who have had their charges dropped spent a combined 9 months in jail and 50 years on bail.

As part of their bail conditions they have had to report to a police station 1,650 times

They have had to travel more than 15,000 km to meet those bail conditions.

Those living out of Auckland had to travel a total of 7,500 kms to get to Auckland for each court hearing.

They owe millions of dollars in legal aid - which they will have to repay with liens against houses and orders against wages.

And that's not even really it.  The most important costs aren't so easily quantifiable. Stress demands compound interest.  The raids and charges did not just effect 22 people - hundreds were in houses, cars or school buses that were searched - and more had to sit while people they loved were locked-up, and face the horrific threat of it happening again.

So many people, including me, have stress fractures that will not heal. The cost was on bodies, on minds, on relationships and it cannot be undone.

Tuhoe Lambert did not live to see these charges dropped.


LudditeJourno said...

Thank you for this Maia.

It is wonderful news that many of those facing charges related to Te Urewera raids are now free of the ongoing organising to defend themselves.

But as you say - the cost to these individuals, to their families, to the people who love them - is not gone, financially or emotionally.

And I think the cost to the ability to protest for social justice in Aotearoa has been significant too.

anthea said...

Thanks Maia - this was an amazing post. <3