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Friday, 16 January 2009

Taranaki Black Power turned up in force to support the five accused. Many wore patches and blue bandannas covering the lower part of their faces.

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Five Black Power gang members accused of murder will stay behind bars because of fears of witness intimidation.Peri Niwa, 31, a scaffolder, was stabbed to death on November 16 in the New Plymouth suburb of Moturoa.The five have been in custody since being arrested in December.In the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, Judge Allan Roberts declined Adrian Fenton and Rangi Rick Brown release on 24-hour electronic bail, saying the risks to witnesses were too great.Judge Roberts said that on the night of the alleged murder, the five had travelled across town, as members of Black Power, literally to confront another group."There was a shotgun and a knife or other sharp object utilised to stab Mr Niwa," he said.It would be much easier for the gang members to track down and intimidate witnesses if they were out on bail, the judge said.For the two men, defence lawyer Barry Henderson argued that there could be no fear that his clients would intimidate witnesses because they had no idea who the witnesses were.The judge replied, "Won't that intensify activity to find out who they are?"Judge Roberts said police had now charged Fenton with illegal possession of a sawn-off 12-gauge pump action shotgun and a knife.There was also a risk that Fenton and Brown would not turn up to court if released on bail, the judge said."I do not consider e-bail will prevent this person (Fenton) from avoiding his obligations. I'm not prepared to grant bail even on the most stringent terms.""(Brown) can walk out the door. If he walks out and scoots he's gone. E-bail doesn't keep him there. It doesn't act as a GPS," the judge said.
All five faced new charges yesterday, including possession of weapons and participating in a criminal group that was reckless in their criminal activity.
In response to a Crown application from prosecutor James Gurnick, each of the five defendants' lawyers made an undertaking not to allow any of the police disclosure into the hands of any people other than their clients.The five gang members return to court on March 10 for a hearing during which the Crown will argue for the court to give full anonymity to prosecution witnesses.All four defence lawyers stated yesterday that they intend to challenge the Crown's application.Outside court, Taranaki Black Power turned up in force to support the five accused. Many wore patches and blue bandannas covering the lower part of their faces.During the court hearing, large numbers of police filled the courtroom after the front benches of the public gallery were cleared.Outside the doors, security officers used metal detectors to scan everyone entering the courtroom.

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