Henare backs nephew over drugs charges

Four Maori sovereignty advocates have been sentence to jail despite also being punished by their hapu.

The group, including National MP Tau Henare's nephew, had sought leniency after being "sentenced" to two years of "hapu service".

Three of the four were caught with cannabis worth up to $52,000 after police drove past a Tikipunga house and smelt the cannabis from the road, despite their patrol vehicle's windows being up.

Mr Henare had written a letter of support for Maihi Paraone, 27, who, with his father Mitai Brown, 52, and uncle Stephen Brown, 43, had been found guilty by a jury of possession of cannabis plant for supply.

Another relative, Jason Tua, 44, was found guilty of possession of cannabis oil for supply.

Judge Russell Callander's decision to sentence the men to jail followed a hui at Otiria Marae last Saturday where they were ordered to perform two years of "hapu service".

Their offending came to light after police searched a Corks Rd property in Whangarei on April 1, last year. Judge Callander said two police officers were surprised at the smell of cannabis coming from the house.

Police said the 5.2kg of drugs recovered had a street value of between $46,000 and $52,000.

Whanau members, including Mr Henare, came out in numbers to show their support for a non-custodial sentence but Judge Callander said cannabis was a pernicious drug and the offenders needed to be held accountable.

He was particularly critical of the quartet's decision to reject legal representation during their trial, based on Maori sovereignty.

Judge Callander said it was a foolish move because it meant they entered their trial without the knowledge of law procedure and the evidential requirements.

He said Parliament and the higher courts had repeatedly made it clear that everyone was subjected to the same laws of New Zealand.

However, he recognised the hui, attended by 35 people, was a mitigating factor and said it showed the men's remorse.

Mitai Brown acknowledged he was the prime offender and sought forgiveness from his whanau, Judge Callander said.

In his letter of support for Paraone, Mr Henare said his nephew was a hard-working man who had been misdirected by his father.

But Judge Callander said Paraone had been uncooperative with the Probation Service and refused to recognise the law of the land.

He sentenced him to two years and nine months in jail.

Mitai Brown was jailed for three years and six months and indicated he would appeal the sentence.

His brother Stephen Brown was sentenced to two years and six months while Tua got 18 months with leave to apply for home detention.

- Imran Ali of The Northern Advocate

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