The buggers should be banged up

Alf notes with fascination the career paths chosen by Hone Harawira’s stroppy relatives, the two Far North brothers who assaulted Prime Minister John Key outside a marae in February.

According to the NZPA report of proceedings in Kaikohe District Court, the pair assaulted Key “in a rush of blood” because of their concern over land being confiscated from Maori.

But Judge John McDonald told John Junior Popata, 33, a researcher, and Wikatana Popata, 19, an interviewer, that violence in any form was not an acceptable way of protest under New Zealand law and it was serious because of who they had targeted.

Get that? A “researcher” and “an interviewer”?

It’s almost the stuff of a Tui ad.

But let’s be generous and suppose they are highly competent at researching, interviewing, or whatever, when the blood is not rushing to their heads.

They still should have been banged up because – as the judge said – roughing up the PM is not an acceptable way of protest, and “serious” becaue of who they targeted. They needed time in the cooler to let their blood settle.

But no. The buggers were slapped on the wrist with the proverbial wet bus ticket.

The brothers today withdrew earlier not guilty pleas to a charge of assaulting Mr Key outside Te Tii Marae at Waitangi. They were convicted and each sentenced to 100 hours’ community work.

The judge did reject an invitation by the brothers’ lawyers to discharge both without conviction.

Alf can only suspect the judge was persuaded to leniency after –

Extensive submissions were made by their lawyers, Annette Sykes and Jason Pou, five Far North kaumatua – several of whom are related to the brothers – and Maori Party MP Hone Harawira.

Alf wondered if they kept straight faces as they made their submissions.

Hone Harawira said the pair were involved in kapa haka, broadcasting, marae, hapu land issues and tribal research.

They had stayed away from drugs and alcohol.

“They’re doing the sort of things that other young people should be doing,” Mr Harawira said.

Yeah, right. Like giving the PM a bit of a roughing-up.

In a statement, partly in Maori, read to the court, Wikatana Popata extended apologies for their actions to people “throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand” and to “John Key in particular”.

But then he sought an apology for the confiscation of lands, harbours and foreshores. “We will continue to struggle for ever and ever,” he said.

Defence counsel tried to tell us the hoonish behaviour against the prime minister was at the lower end of the scale and the brothers had both spent five days remanded in custody at Ngawha prison, near Kaikohe, immediately after their first appearance in court following the incident.

Oh, and they were saying sorry to a raft of people – to Te Tii Marae, many of whose people were upset at what had happened, to Ngapuhi, to the people of New Zealand, and the PM.

But Police said an assault on the prime minister needed a deterrent sentence (and Alf thoroughly agrees).

Mr Key had been “vulnerable” because of the welcoming atmosphere he had been expecting and because his previously broken right arm was still in a sling.

Judge McDonald accepted that what the Popatas did was done in “a rush of blood” and that there was no evidence the assault on Mr Key was planned in advance.

As he left the court after sentencing, Wikatana Popata said only that they would “fight on for ever and ever”.

That’s a bloody good reason for banging the buggers up. For ever and ever, perhaps.

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