Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dispatches from Court Day 1

I'm attending the Depositions Hearing for Operation 8. I'll be writing up a report most days and posting it here.

The court room we were assigned to had four rows of seats with six seats on each side. Theoretically forty eight people could fit in the court. But the third row of seats had restricted tape across them, as if it had been the scene of the crime, and signs say ‘No Seating’. We gradually sat down, leaving the mysterious third row behind. But then the moustached security guard, who is clearly a regular for Operation 8, came over. He explained that the judge had said that the first two rows were reserved for defendents, and the judge had ordered one row be kept clear. So the public were limited to the last row, and the police were already taking up half of that row, which left six seats for everyone who had come up

The first stage of the court hearing was supposed to be the reading of the charges. But the defence still hadn’t had the informations, so they didn't know which of the many different charges the crown were talking about they were actually going to pursue. Also the crown hadn’t provided the charges against in Maori, despite the lawyer’s requests. So, less than half an hour after court started a recess was taken to sort all this out.

Annette Sykes raised the fact that there were only 6 seats for whanau. The judge replied that the row of empty seats was for ‘security reasons’ and it had been decided and wasn’t going to change.

Another lawyer then mentioned that her client had trouble hearing what was happening, and asked whether it would be possible for the defendants to sit in the jury box and the media to sit somewhere else. The judge said that it had already been decided and it wouldn’t be possible to change it. Clearly it’s more important that the media can hear than defendants.

During the break they decided that there was a solution to the lack of space for whanau. Rather than have the defendants take up two rows, and then have one row blank, the defendants would sit on one side with the police behind them. The judge didn’t think the security row was necessary if the police were (where the public – who were entirely whanau and supporters of the defendants – had needed that protection from the scary defendants).

When things finally got started, a great performance was made of dropping a small number of charges. There was an attempt to drop an April 2007 charge against one of the defendants. This was quite difficult to do because he had never been charged with anything in April 2007 and was out of the country in April 2007.

The judge wanted to skip reading out the charges, but the defence lawyers insisted on it. The registrar began reading the charges against Emily Bailey. All the charges are joint charges, and the name of each of the co-accused is read out with each charge. This gave the registrar an opportunity to show off that he really can’t pronounce Maori names (which is understandable, because Maori people rarely come before the Auckland district court).

I was trying to listen past the mangling to figure out what the charges were, and they seemed to be the original charges people were arrested with almost a year ago (the charges change regularly). It took the lawyers and judge a while to notice. The judge sighed and told the lawyers to go off and sort out what the charges are. So after fifteen minutes we took the lunchtime adjournment (long hours they work in court).

During the break they’d found a Maori woman registrar to take over from the white man, so there was no amusement to be found from the mangling of the names. In fact there was no amusement at all. Just endless exhausting reading of charges, in two hours the court got through seven people’s charges. The endless drone would be a good cure for insomnia, and several people fell asleep, but wasn’t particularly enlightening.

The highlight of this was Annette insisting that Tame’s charges be read in Maori. Itwas no more interesting than them being read in English, but clearly pissed off the judge and police. We must take our pleasure where we find it in the process of being bored to death.

Tuesday will be more reading of charges, followed by the media demanding their right to sensationalise everything. Then, as a reward for sitting through this all, sometime this week we get to listen to Aaron Pascoe (head of operation 8) give his perspective on exactly how dangerous everyone is.

7 comments:

  1. Can some of the defendants not speak english (and if not why not)? otherwise what is the point of reading the charges in maori?

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  2. I saw this on indymedia and thought, I know whose reporting this sounds like <3
    Very disappointed to see that the herald mentioned the dangerous rebel cross stitcher and nothing about knitters.

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  3. I'm not up with the lingo - is a peace activist who collects weapons still a peace activist?

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  4. Hi,

    I get a "404 error" when I try to read the "please read this before commenting" link, so I can't read the comment policy.

    But I'm commenting anyway to tell you that I get a "404 error" when... etc

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  5. And now they've suppressed all details. So much for open justice...

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  6. Anna - the reason they didn't mention the knitting is that you're not allowed knitting needles in the Auckland district court, because they could be used to stab someone in the chest (even plastic 7.5 mm needles!)

    Thanks everyone else for the comments.

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