The reasons given by the Crown for a stay of proceedings were (from No retrial of Urewera Four: Judge):
- the organised criminal group charge only had a maximum penalty one year more than the firearms charges so the end sentence would not have been altered much
- five years have elapsed since the charges were laid and a retrial would likely have had to be held in 2013
- the retrial would have added further expense to "what is already a high cost case"
- there had been an "unprecedented media coverage and commentary" about the case which may have jeopardised the fairness of any retrial
All of these points were also largely true of the original trial, re-enforcing the impression that the Crown never expected a conviction on the criminal group charge anyway. It looks like it was an attempt to add some weight to the charges, in order to justify the incomprehensible actions of police around October 15th 2007.
In addition, the criminal group charge allowed otherwise inadmissible evidence to be used to get the firearms convictions. In early September 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s ruling that much of the evidence collected under Operation 8 was unlawfully obtained and could not be used. This meant that all charges against 13 accused were dropped. For the four accused of participating in a criminal group, the court found that the seriousness of the charge justified the use of unlawfully obtained evidence. Now that the criminal group charge is off the table, surely the evidence that came with it should be inadmissible. Even by the standards of the criminal justice system, it is unjust to convict these four of firearms charges based on unlawful evidence.
I want to finish by again quoting Hone Harawira on the injustices stemming from Operation 8 (Justice denied to the people of Tuhoe):
There has been no apology, there has been no compensation, there has been no public acknowledgement of the need for change in police operations or for new engagement policies as a result of the litany of errors we now know as Operation 8.
For the four accused and their whānau, I am stoked that there will be no retrial. It was a relief to hear that the Crown has the ability to make a reasonable decision. For all of the people hurt by Operation 8, I wish the Crown had shown any sense earlier.