Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I'm not big on writing about the elections. But sometimes the jokes just write themselves. Those times usually involve New Zealand First in this Peter Brown:

New Zealand First says it will not welcome immigrants if they come from societies with a "class system" or where women are treated as subservient to men.
The obvious joke is then how did Peter Brown, who like me is an immigrant from England, get it?

But the more important question is that if you lived somewhere without a class system where women have free and equal lives, then why would you move to new Zealand?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bus Drivers

Last Wednesday morning, the Wellington bus drivers went on strike for an hour. GoWellington (which is owned by infratil) responded by locking the bus drivers out indefinitely and cancelling all services.

Obviously, none of this qualifies as news. As most people probably know the bus-drivers were completely solid in their resistance. As Graeme Clark said ‘People ask us how long we can go without pay; we say one day longer than they can go without buses.’ The bus drivers also had heaps of solidarity. Even though Morning report gave most time to the bosses, every single commuter they talked to supported the drivers. Unions swung into action straight away, organising solidarity meetings and collecting on the first day of the lock-out. Even in Auckland collectors raised $130 in less than an hour.

In the face of this, the bosses crumbled .

I didn’t write about it at the time, because I was too busy texting Wellington friends trying to find out what was going on – grumpy at being stuck in Auckland. I wanted to be down at the bus station; I would have even joined the picket line at ungodly hour of 5.30am (for an awesome first hand account check out Nick Kelly's on indymedia).

But I wanted to pay tribute to the strength and unity of the bus drivers, and the solidarity they received.

I also wanted to remind everyone that the struggle is not over. The lock-out has been lifted but there has been no settlement and the starting rate for Wellington bus drivers is still $12.76 an hour.

Dispatches from Week 3 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

Another week of the depositions hearing has passed. The last five days of the depositions hearing, endless, mysterious, boring, interspersed with nano-seconds of excitement. Unfortunately the suppression orders still stand so I can’t tell you about the nano-statements of excitement. Possibly they only seem exciting in comparison with read-back guy, who continues to mangle Te Reo in a way I didn’t was know possible. When a friend said his favourite readback-guy mispronunciation was: why-care-moan-a, I couldn’t figure out what the original word was supposed to be (waikaremoana).

The big question people keep asking me is whether or not the crown will meet the prima facie case on all the charges, or whether some will be dropped. A couple of the lawyers are optimistic that a prima facie case won’t be met against their clients.

But if someone is facing 30 charges and the judge believes that a prima facie case is made on just one of them, then the crown can just relay the other 29 at the next stage of the process (I think - this is something I have been asking lawyers about for a month, and don’t always get the same answer. But it appears to be the lawyers consensus of the moment that the crown can relay individual charges). So the lawyers aren’t necessarily concentrating on the prima-facie case, but on finding out information that will help them in pre-trial hearings down the track.

The big question is when it will finish. I even made up a song: “It’s the depositions hearing that never ends/it just goes on and on my friend/some people started investigating not knowing what it was/ and we’ll continue listening forever just because.”

But it looks possible that the hearing will end sometime this week. However, the judge has invited written submissions from the crown. After these are put in the defence will be given 14 days (or some set period) to respond, and only then will the judge make his decision. So while we may all be going home at the end of this week, we won’t know what’s happening for some time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dispatches for day 7 and 8 - once more into the breach of Operation 8 Depositions hearing

After a week in Wellington and a whole different court case, I'm back in Auckland for the second stretch of the depositions hearing. Tomorrow morning the bus will come to take us to court, and we'll be back into the three ring circus which is the depositions hearing.

On the last day of the last session the judge said that he would continue sitting until it was over. I'm not sure if that was a promise or a threat

I know I skipped dispatches of the last few days of court. The suppression orders made it very hard to give an accurate impression of what's going on. I could tell quirky anecdotes, and keep pepole updated of various signs that have been put up around the place. But there comes a stage when telling those stories gives people the wrong impression of what's going on in court. While I suspect I will be telling some of the stories from court for the rest of my life, it's more than funny anecdotes. The challenge for me is to give an accurate impression of court, without saying anything that happened in the court room.

So it'll just be one story, to cover those last few days, even though there are some funny anecdotes.

As I've said before, the registrar in court room eight has atrocious Maori pronunciation. Even above and beyond your standard Maori mispronunciation - I don't think he's pronounced a single Maori word right over the entire period (and he does the read-backs so it's a lot of words). On the last day, someone suggested to him that he could learn Maori pronunciation. It would only take him a few hours with a speaker to learn some of the words and basic principles. He replied "Yes, I know I get things wrong. I don't come from New Zealand. I think the good thing is that it makes me neutral."

Neutral is mis-pronouncing Rawiri Iti's name, but not Aaron Pascoe's.

I don't know how many dispatches there will be in the next few weeks of court, but I'll do my best to give people an impression of what's going on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dispatches from Wellington 1a - Faifax contempt trial


"The Terror Files" - ten months ago the Dominion Post, Stuff and other Fairfax papers published several articles that were based on the affadavit that was used to get the search warrant for the raids on October 15th. In these articles they also published intercepted communications, in a random, cherry picked sort of a way (cherry-picking the cherry-picking - since search warrants dont' generally include the perspective people raided, or even counter-interpretations). Now, ten months later, they were being taken to court by solicitor general for contempt.

By now I'm used to the rhthym of court, so I knew that the first issue that was going to be addressed was media coverage and suppression orders (the reading of the charges didn't take three days this time). The judges order stated that the media were not able to report, directly or indirectly, intercepted communications or Aaron Pascoe's affadavit, and that either party could apply for more suppression orders in the hearing (and one other question and answer was suppressed, although not a very important or interesting one).

This was followed by the Crown opening. David Collins, the solicitor-general was acting for the defence. His main points were the prejudicial effect of the Fairfax articles, and the effect they would have on the jury pool. He went into much detail in the various ways this article created fear towards the defendants.

He also pointed out that this limited . He said that there are realistically only two defences under arms act charges - one is an identity defence and the other that you were using the firearms for lawful, proper and sufficient purpose (which I don't think is true, because surely as well as arguing it wasn't you, you can also argue that its not a gun, although that's a little beside the point). The solicitor general's point (and it's a good one) is that if the jury has half remembered intercepted communications that might mean that it'll be very hard for the defence to argue that there were lawful proper and sufficient purpose.

The argument of the solicitor general, that the communications were suppressed, they were illegally published (there's a law against publishing intecepted communications) and that they prejudiced a fair trial. With a little bit of bombasity about how judges, not newspaper editors should make decisions about fair trials.

The judges suggested that he didn't need so many steps. The combination of the bar on publishing any intercepted communications, and the suppression orders on those The fact that the communications were suppressed, coupled with the illegaility of publishing intercepted communications would be enough in itself to demonstrate contempt. There wasn't necessarily the need to prove that the right to a fair trial was put at risk.

I found it quite hard listening to some of this, because it's frustrating to hear people talk about things when you know more than they do. When asked when the bail hearings had happened the solicitor general didn't know if they'd all been completed by the day the article was published. Because I was in court I had to listen to people burbling about what might have happened, rather than list off the various days that people got bail which I know, because I've been paying attention (also the day they got bail? I'm not going to forget that day).

The first crown witness was a woman, who I think worked in the crown law office, but I didn't catch her name. She played some role in putting together the Crown's evidence, but we didn't hear what, or see the Crown's evidence. It was a disjointed court hearing, as the witnesses briefs were taken as read. This meant we only heard cross-examination, and we never heard the substance of what the witnesses were saying. The cross examination focused on nit-picking the level of circulation of Fairfax (the figures that had been given included the Sunday Star Times and Auckland community newspapers), as well as discussing other coverage of these events.

Then Mr Burns, the Crown Prosecutor in the Arms Act charges, took the stand. After his non-brief the solicitor general asked him some supplementary questions. These were mostly on clarifying some of the issues of fact, such as when the bail hearings were (of course asking me would have worked just as well). One of the judges had asked when it was decided that hte proceedings would be moved to Auckland. Mr Burns pointed out that it is only the preliminary hearings that have been moved to Auckland. There was some discussion about when the trial would happen, and he seemed to think that it could be before 2010 (which seems unlikely to me).

But the big news was that Mr Burns said that the Crown was considering laying additional charges of participating in an organised criminal group against some of those currently facing Arms Act charges. A quick perusal of Section 98a of the Crimes Act makes it clear that it'll be an uphill battle. An organised criminal group is defined as a group which has as one of its objectives either "obtaining material benefits from the commission of offences that are punishable by imprisonment for a term of 4 years or more" or "the commission of serious violent offences that are punishable by imprisonment for a term of 10 years or more." (Of course me first reaction was "I'll go on the stand to testify that you're not organised" - turns out that's not a legal requirement - legislators ruin all the best jokes).

It's such a bogus charge. If they had any reason to believe that anyone had committed serious violent offences (or minor violent offences, or property offences or anything which requires a concrete action), then they would have charged them ten months ago. But beyond the dubious Arms Act charges, they don't have anything, which doesn't stop them trying to punish the defendants any way we can.

Anyway back to court today; Hugh Rennie's cross-examination of Mr Burns mostly focused on issues that he explained in more detail in his opening remarks, so I won't go into any detail. In response to comments about confusing suppression orders, the judges asked Mr Burns if anyone from the media contacted the Crown prosecutors to clarify the situation with the various suppression orders, and Mr Burns replied that they hadn't.

Aaron Pascoe, the lead detective for Operation Eight was the last prosecution witness. The questions for him were mostly about the nature of the affidavit. He gave evidence that the version of the affidavit leaked was the version that was the version that was provided to defence lawyers on the 18th of October. There was also some discussion about the leaked version of the affidavit on the internet. Hugh Rennie implied that the affidavit was leaked on the internet before they got bail. I don't know whether he was being tricky, or if he was fact-free, but the affidavit wasn't leaked on the internet until after the Dom Post article came out. One of the reason I was reading the leaked affadavit was to evaluate the Dominion Post article, and see if any of the quotes came from anyone I knew.

That was all there was from the prosecution, although we didn't hear most of their case because it was in the briefs and bundles of documents that had already been produced.

Hugh Rennie's first argument was that the information published by Fairfax wasn't substantially different from publications that were already in the public domain. That Howard Broad, Helen Clark and Annette King (among others) had all made equally prejudical comments, which had to some degree relied on the intercepted communications. He's not wrong. I think my favourite bit was when he quoted the solicitor general's decision not to proceed with the terorrism charges which included a statement that solicitor general agreed with the police decision to investigate under terrorism legislation and that the raids had put an end to very disturbing activities. The judges didn't have much time for 'they did it first arguments', but Hugh Rennie succeeded in pointing out that Fairfax was somewhat of a scapegoat for the extraordinary media coverage and public statements from many people (which was in turn covering up how much of a mess operation 8 was).

He then made a rather spurious argument that the comments quoted didn't have anything to do with the Arms Act charges people now face. Which ignores the argument about a legal, sufficient and proper purpose defence that the crown had already made. But things got really complicated when he started discussing existing suppression orders that arose from bail hearings.

Those who were around at the time will remember that there were a series of bail hearings (I could probably give you the dates of most of them if I thought about it). At most of these bail hearings some intercepted communications were introduced, and then suppressed. Hugh Rennie was trying to argue that the suppression orders about the intercepted communications only arise if people learn about them from teh bail hearing. In this case they came from the affadavit rather than the bail hearing, and under those circumstances they weren't suppressed. This didn't sit very well with the judges - who pointed out that names are often suppressed at bail hearings, and it wouldn't be OK for journalists to find out the name from a different source and then go and publish anyway. At least part of the case will hang on this issue of whether or not there were suppression orders that covered the intercepted communications (Hugh Rennie is also arguing that Tim Pankhurst didn't know about the suppression orders - I odn't know if that's a defence).

Although that's not the only issue because possession and distribution of intercepted communications is also illegal under the Crimes Act. Therefore the Solicitor General doesn't necessarily need to rely on the suppression orders (and wasn't in his opening address).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dispatches from Day 7 - Operation 8 depositions hearing

The police have been harassing defendants since the beginning of the depositiosn hearing. In the previous week the police have followed defendants into the toilets and making comments, and kicking the backs of defendants’ seats. But today the harassment was taken up another notch.

I was sitting in court, trying to keep awake when a supporter came up and whispered something I didn’t catch. But it was clear something had happened.

Before I got outside I heard one of the women who had come to support the defendants on the megaphone, talking about how a pakeha man had twice punched one of the wahine there, but she had been arrested.

I saw Bonnie, the partner of Watene one of the defendants, with her hands cuffed behind her back. I told the police she was breastfeeding a four month old baby, and they didn’t care. The police barely let her thirteen year old daughter talk to her mother.

It was up to the Auckland Central Police Station to wait for them to be released. The Wellington district police station only has one entrance, and criminals and citizens (as the police categorise them) come to the same front counter. But the Auckland Central Police Station makes the police’s views of the world more clear: there is the main entrance, but anyone who knows someone who has been arrested goes down to the basement to wait on stainless steel benches.

Watene had been arrested by a plain clothes police officer for supposedly scratching Aaron Pascoe’s car. The car had definitely been scratched, but there were several witnesses who saw the car scratched before Watene even got out of court. On top of that the only thing the Watene had in his hand was a sausage roll, which has limited potential as a way to wilfully damage a car (fear of food appears to be a recurring theme in this case – first avacadoes, and now sausage rolls).

Bonnie was twice elbowed in the head by police before being arrested for obstruction. It took almost two hours for her to be bailed. The police wouldn’t let a lawyer take her four month old baby into Auckland Central police station to be breast fed during this time.

Watene was not bailed from the police station, but taken back to court, where the crown opposed bail, on truly spurious grounds. After a tense afternoon, with hearings in both court rooms the judge granted bail at ten to five.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Dispatches from Day 6 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

As I mentioned in my last dispatch lots of children have been affected by the raids, and some of them are at court. One of those is a thirteen year old girl who was taken into a room away from her mother and strip searched during the raids. She has been doing fantastic drawings of Pascoe and liberation signs. Today, she challenged Pascoe as he went into court “He’s a terrorist, and a bad man.”

The depositions hearing has brought together some of the people who have been affected by the raids. To spend more time with people who went through the same things, last October and November, has made us stronger.

Otherwise the Crown’s case just drags on, and obviously I still can’t report on it. One of the reasons the depositions hearing is taking so long is that the judge has very little patience, and calls an adjournment for the slightest delay. Today the lunch break started half an hour early, rather than take the time to sort out the papers and get something done.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dispatches from Day 5 - Operation 8 depositions hearing

Outside of court the week ended with a bang. One of the kids turned six and so over lunch there was a birtday party outside courtroom 8. We had a cake, candles and party hats. The registrar (he who pronounces Tame to rhyme with 'same') muttered that there was no dignity in this court room. I'd say there was a lot of dignity in that court room - but not the sort the registrar would recognise.

As Friday was the last day of the week, and all the evidence is still suppressed, I thought I'd take some time to point out how much work goes into making it possible for all 18 defendants their whanau and supporters to come to court.

Te Tira Hou Marae has been an amazing base for the defendants. 13 of the defendants live outside of Auckland, and having accomodation, and a place to have hui has been vital. Defendants from outside Auckand have been able to come for a meal, and catch up on all the associating they've been forbidden from doing over the last ten months.

Feeding all the people who come to the marae has been done by an amazing team of cooks (and the curry for tomorrow night is already looking fantastic). Food is plentiful, thanks to all sorts of donations and fundraising efforts.

Roger the fabulous bus driver, has made getting to an from court incredibly easy for everyone. Not having to worry about trains, traffic or parking, makes everthing much easier. Thanks to Roger and to Civil Rights Defence for providing the bus.

The lawyers have been doing a fantastic job. I know I wasn't the only person who was worried about how well they'd work together, but they've been really strong in court. They understand that this case is about more than just the law. One lawyer has a poster for the international day of action on his desk. Another brought a present to the birthday party.

Finally, one of the most important jobs has been looking after the children. There have been up to a dozen children at court and the marae. Looking after them at court is stressful. Volunteers have taken the older kids on expeditions around Auckland, making it that much easier on their parents. At the time of the raids the partner's of two of the defendants were prgenant. These women have now given birth to baby freedom fighters in the months since. The work of those women, and their whanau looking after babies in such a stressful time, needs special recognition.

A special thanks to everyone who has donated money or attended (and particularly organised) a fundraising event. The koha from all over the world has made this difficult time much less stressful. The court case isn't just about convictions, but about punishing the defendants, with endless appearances and oppressive bail conditions. By taking some collective responsibility for the costs of this, we are fighting back against the police (and if all of this has persuaded you to contribute you can here).

Liberated box report: The kids had been putting in some good work on Friday; the sign that was left said "Tuhoe Liberators not Torrists".

Finally just thank you for everyone who has left comments on these reports this week.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dispatches from Court Day 4 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

The Crown Prosecutor is called Mr Burns. I think I would take more pleasure in this, if he was balder and had a long thin nose. He’s more smarmy, for some reason he reminds me of Grant Robertson (the labour candidate for Wellington central), even though there’s no much of a physical resemblance, and I’ve never met grant Robertson.

Anyway, today Mr Burns gave his opening address. I can’t report on most of what he said, because it related to suppressed evidence. But he did explain the crown argument on the nature of group possession. When they charge a group of a dozen people with possession of a firearm (or Molotov cocktails), they’re not necessary going to try and prove that each individual held it, or even saw it. But they’re relying on meeting one of three different thresholds. One is a common law provision that if a group has possession and control of an item, every member is legally in possession of that item (so every member of Peace Action Wellington has group possession of the Peace Action Wellington megaphone). The second is a Crimes Act provision which is that if a group has a common purpose and one person uses a weapon as part of that purpose then everyone is in possession of that weapon (I think the purpose of the group may need to be an illegal purpose, but I'm not a lawyer and don't know fo sure). The third is an Arms Act provision, which states if you are on any land and there is a weapon on that land you are assumed to be possession of that weapon unless you can prove otherwise (lawyers will have to explain how large the land can be - I don't think they can argue that the defendants were in te Urewera, and there were guns in te Urewera therefore the defendants were in possession of the guns. But sometimes it seems like they're trying to). The Crown just has to meet one of these provisions to prove that the defendants were jointly in possession of Firearms. If the Crown succeeds in doing this the defendants will have to prove that they had lawful, proper and sufficient purpose in that posessesion.

I’d never attended a depositions hearing before, so had no idea what a pain in the ass it was. The witnesses give their evidence, and every so often it gets read back to them to confirm the evidence is correct. So you hear everything twice, and it’s not exactly up to the entertainment value of paint drying the first time round.

There had been discussion yesterday about Aaron Pacoe’s fluency in Maori. If he can’t pronounce Ruatoki, he’s not fluent in Maori (even a little bit). The court registrar has similar problems (which is painful, as he reads back each page of the depositions). As a unionist I hold his employer responsible, they should pay for him to be trained in Maori pronunciation, so he doesn’t have a roomful of people mocking his every word. But Aaron Pascoe has no excuse, in fact he appears to believe that correct pronunciation of Maori words is evidence of Terrorist activity.

Court box watch – as has been mentioned before the box outside court has become a bit of a liberated zone. The Tino Rangatiratanga sticker, which had stayed up over Tuesday night, was gone by the time we came into court on Thursday. But by the end of the day there was a leaflet and hand drawn Tino Rangatiratanga flag in its place. There was some fine art work all over court on Thursday– artistic renditions of Aaron Pascoe and a pushchair with a beautiful sign saying “Baby Liberator”

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dispatches from Court Day 2 - Operation 8 deposition hearing

One of the things I didn’t explain properly yesterday was why the charges take so long to read. The charges are almost all jointly possessing firearms, between certain dates. On some dates each defendant who is charged on that date is charged with possessing the same half dozen firearms. Each time a charge is read the names of all the people who are being co-charged are listed. So the same list of names is repeated over and over again, in some cases over 100 times (and then again in Te Reo).

The only court business that happened on Tuesday was the reading of 7 more people’s charges. Four of those charges were also read in Te Reo Maori. By the end of the day the names, dates, and legalese had all slipped together into a strange drone, both in English and in Maori. There was some suggestion that the 24 year old Swiss Musician might want his charges read in his language, and people suggested his language was Swedish, Spanish and German (If they were going to be read in his language, it would be Swiss German, but they were just read in English).

At a time this boring, anything that happens seems fascinating. One defendent made a huge performance of his charges being read. He moved forward and looked over the shoulder of one of the media and noticed that she was playing solitaire. Not that I blame her.

The judge doesn’t notice much, but is very intolerant of what he does notice. Yesterday, when people finished having their charges read the audience applauded. The first two times the judge didn’t notice, but the third time he said that he wouldn’t tolerate the barracking and threatened to clear the court.

One defendant had not appeared yesterday, and when he was finally called the judge talked as if not putting the defendant back in jail was the most generous act he had taken all year, and then made insulting comments.

The police continue to sit in the back of court and harass the defendants who sit in front of them. The cops kick the back of the seats of the defendants, as if they were school kids.

Yesterday a 'drop the charges' leaflet somehow found its way inside the locked box by the court room which lists what's being heard that day. The security guards must have removed it, but today a tino rangtiratanga sticker had been stuck on the same box (and has yet to be removed)

On Wednesday the last lot of charges will be read, then the lawyers will argue about media and bail, then finally Aaron Pascoe will take the stand.

Dispatches from Court Day 3 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

The charges against the last four defendants were read on Wednesday morning, and only took a few hours.

The first good news of a day was that the crown agreed to a variation of bail that the crown agreed to. For the duration of the hearing, the defendants don’t need to report to the police station and they will be able to associate during the trial.

All of which is just common sense, as defedents are seeing each other every day in court, but it is a victory nonetheless. The non-association orders are causing real pain and hardship for the defendants some of whom are friends, whanau and comrades. Even for those that didn’t know each other the order is making it very difficult to organise their defence. That the crown is willing to drop the non-association orders for a month demonstrates that the orders are in fact there to punish the defendants. Under the Bail Act the only justifications for bail conditions are to ensure that defendants attend court, to prevent them tampering with evidence or witnesses and to prevent offending while on bail. If the defendents associate in September without it resulting in an 18 person crime spree, then it seems ridiculous for the crown to argue that the non-association orders must continue to prevent offending while on bail.

One major issue for the defence has been around translation. The judge has congratulated himself several times for allowing the charges to be read in te reo (or as he said in a slightly grumpy voice “in Maori, which is how it is referred to in the Maori language Act”). This is going to be an on-going issue as many police witnesses are going to attempt introduce Maori translations of terms that are under dispute. When discussing this Annette Sykes “Aaron Pascoe is going to introduce evidence of translations and I don’t know whether he is fluent in Te Reo.” Those of us in the peanut gallery giggled as we suspected he wasn't.

This was followed by lengthy arguments about whether the media will be able to publish the evidence in the depositions hearing. All the arguments about this were suppressed, and the arguments took up most of the morning, and the early afternoon. The judge then ruled that all evidence in the depositions hearing will be suppressed.

Unlike the arguments, his decision was not suppressed. The defence are going to argue that some of the evidence the crown has is inadmissable. If the media reported on the evidence and it was later ruled inadmissable then it would prejudice a potential jury. There was some discussion of only suppressing certain evidence, but this would have been very difficult for the defence logistically. This was a big win for the defence (and a loss by Aaron Pascoe, head of operation 8, because he was hanging out for the trial by soundbyte).

I will uphold this suppression order in these dispatches. So they will probably get shorter and more about the random anecdotes.

Then, just the crown were about to call Aaron Pascoe, and the depositions hearing was going to finally begin, the defence lawyers pointed out that they hadn’t had time to read his brief, and at 3pm the court was adjourned for another day.

It was a good day for the defence. With the bail conditions and suppression of evidence making things much easier for the defendants. But the depositions hearing hasn’t even begun yet – the struggle continues.

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.