Moko’s killers get 17 years

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, the two people responsible for killing Moko Rangitoheriri, were sentenced to 17 years in prison with non-parole periods of 9 years. This is the longest sentence given to people guilty of manslaughter of a child.

Over a period of two months, the pair kicked Moko, threw him, dropped him face first on the floor, bit and stomped on him and denied him medical treatment. He arrived at hospital with swelling to his face so bad it was impossible to open his eyes.

His abdomen was distended, he had bruising on his front and back, multiple abrasions and wounds that appeared to be human bite marks were found on his face and arms.

– Stuff EXPLAINER: Moko’s killers got manslaughter to eliminate ‘substantial risk’ of either walking free

This sounds like a fair sentence (as fair as you can be to child torturers). It’s as long as some murderers get. If they were given an unusually long sentence it would have raised the risks of the sentence being appealed and overturned or reduced.

The Police statement in reaction to Moko sentencing:

Police want to again extend their condolences and sympathy to the family of Moko Rangitoheriri, following the sentencing of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa this morning.  

Police also want to acknowledge the officers who worked on the investigation into Moko’s death. 

Any case involving a young and vulnerable victim like Moko is extremely difficult for all involved, and I would like to commend the officers involved for their diligence and professionalism.

Finally, Police ask that media continue to respect the privacy of Moko’s extended family.  We appreciate the ongoing public interest in this case, but attempts by media to contact the extended family, particularly vulnerable younger members, have caused a significant amount of distress to the family. 

And Attorney General Chris Finlayson explained the reasoning behind settling for manslaughter charges and not trying for murder – to make sure they got a conviction.

Statement on Moko case

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson today set out the reasons for the Crown’s decision to accept the manslaughter pleas of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa in substitution of murder charges for the killing of Moko Rangitoheriri.

Ms Shailer and Mr Haerewa were today both sentenced to 17 years in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of nine years. Until that sentencing took place, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General were unable to comment on the specifics of the case, as the sentencing was a matter for the courts.

“The Crown’s decisions in this case, including the decision to accept the manslaughter pleas, were motivated by the need to secure convictions for this horrendous killing and to avoid the significant risk that either of the defendants could escape such a conviction because of evidential issues,” Mr Finlayson said.

“The guilty pleas and admitted facts enabled the Crown to argue for a sentence which reflected the nature of the crimes committed. Without the guilty pleas, the full details of the facts set out in the Statement of Facts may not have otherwise come to light.

“The decision to accept a plea of manslaughter in substitution of a murder charge is never taken lightly. A robust process is followed which ultimately requires the approval of the Solicitor-General.

“The overarching consideration is whether the interests of justice are met in accepting the plea and in particular, whether the charge can adequately reflect the criminal nature of the conduct as well as allow sufficient scope for sentencing.

“Based on the evidence available for trial, there was a substantial risk that one or both of the defendants would not be convicted of the legal charge of murder or manslaughter.

“To prove the legal charge of murder in this case, the Crown was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Moko’s fatal injuries were inflicted with murderous intent.

“The Crown was confident that Ms Shailer was the principal offender and most likely directly responsible for Moko’s most serious injuries. The nature of Mr Haerewa’s involvement in Moko’s fatal injuries was less clear on the evidence available for trial.

“It was relevant to the likelihood of securing a murder conviction that the injuries Moko suffered were not inevitably fatal. With reasonably prompt medical treatment, he could have been saved.

“Let me be clear, this in no way reduces the seriousness of the abuse Moko suffered. It is, however, something the jury would have had to take into account when deciding if Ms Shailer had murderous intent at the time she inflicted the fatal injuries.

“If the jury was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms Shailer had murderous intent at the time she inflicted the fatal injuries, then neither she nor Mr Haerewa could have been convicted of murder.

“Of course, the defendants also had a responsibility to obtain the medical treatment which would have saved Moko’s life. By failing to discharge this duty, they contributed to his death in addition to causing his fatal injuries.

“But the failure to discharge this duty could not in itself lead to a murder conviction for both defendants nor would a conviction for manslaughter based solely on this failure have adequately reflected the defendants’ role in inflicting the injuries which killed Moko.

“The Solicitor-General considered that accepting guilty pleas for manslaughter in substitution of murder charges meant that both Ms Shailer and Mr Haerewa:

  1. admitted responsibility for inflicting the injuries which killed Moko and their failure to obtain him lifesaving medical treatment; and
  2. could be given a sentence which reflected the serious nature of their crimes.

“Mr Haerewa admitted he had contributed to Moko’s death by encouraging and supporting Ms Shailer’s physical abuse. In the absence of his guilty plea, Mr Haerewa’s role in the violence that killed Moko may not have been adequately recognised in the ultimate outcome of a trial.

“The guilty pleas in this case also avoided exposing young and vulnerable children to the trauma of giving evidence including, for some, evidence against their parents.

“There has been significant public interest in this case and numerous statements have been made in the media about the charging of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa.

“The cost of prosecuting this trial was not a factor taken into account in approving the manslaughter charge. The public interest in prosecuting such serious crime would never take into account the financial cost of bringing a defendant to trial.

“Nor is plea bargaining a feature of the New Zealand justice system. Prosecutors cannot agree to a guilty plea based on the premise they will support a specific sentence.”

Notes for the editor:

The Attorney-General has overall responsibility to the citizens of New Zealand for prosecutions carried out by or on behalf of the Crown through Parliament.

In practice, however, the Attorney-General is not involved in individual criminal cases. These matters are formally delegated to the Solicitor-General to avoid any political interference, or appearance of political interference, in our criminal justice system.

As set out in section 185 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, the Solicitor-General is responsible for maintaining general oversight of the conduct of public prosecutions. As part of that role the Solicitor-General provides prosecution guidelines that all Crown Solicitors must adhere to.

In accordance with clause 18 of the guidelines, the Solicitor-General must approve all plea arrangements in relation to murder charges. Where a defendant indicates they will plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter, the Crown Solicitor is required to refer that offered plea to the Solicitor-General to approve the withdrawal of the murder charge in substitution for that of manslaughter.

The Crown Solicitor prepares a letter of advice for the Solicitor-General and forwards all relevant material from the trial file. Counsel within Crown Law prepare an initial opinion, which is then reviewed by senior Crown Counsel before final referral to the ultimate decision maker. The decision maker can be the Deputy Solicitor-General (Criminal) exercising the powers of the Solicitor-General, or the Solicitor-General her or himself.

Approval is only given after careful consideration of the factors detailed in the prosecution guidelines. The overarching consideration is whether the interests of justice are met and in particular:

  • whether the charge adequately reflects the essential criminality of the conduct; and
  • whether the charge provides sufficient scope for sentencing to reflect that criminality.

If a plea is accepted it is only on the basis that the factual basis for sentencing must outline in full the extent of the injury or damage suffered by the victim to ensure this can be reflected in sentencing.


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  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  27th June 2016

    Well said, Chris.

    With regard to plea bargaining, I think that some people are watching too much American television and think that it’s the same here.

    I hope that this explanation will satisfy those who demanded a murder charge, but it probably won’t. I would have had to say that it wasn’t murder had I been on the jury, regardless of how I felt personally about these two people, but would have had no hesitation in saying that they were guilty of manslaughter. How dreadful that he could have been saved had he had medical attention, but that they denied it to him and let him die. If they’d sought it, he’d have been alive and they would have been charged with something-but not manslaughter.

    • And while I agree with you Kitty that it would have been almost impossible to support a murder conviction in this matter… It still very much leaves a distinct nasty taste in the mouth. Justice has not truly been done by Moko

      What I think needs to be considered in these cases in the broader sense, is whether we have the right charges available under the law [I assume murder etc is under the Crimes Act but someone with legal knowledge can confirm that]?

      Some thoughts – imperfect but take them as starting points:

      Firstly: Should we have a charge that is specific, say “Death of a Child due to Mistreatment” – with a mandatory 30 year sentence, no parole available? Same standard of proof as a manslaughter charge i.e. no need to prove murderous intent, which has quite a high standard of proof required. This should be constructed in such away to target these types of abuse cases and take away the best years of the offender/s lives

      Secondly: A specific obstruction of justice charge tied to “Death of a Child due to Mistreatment” which targets individuals who refuse to talk about a child mistreatment death. Yes it would be difficult to frame legally to avoid it being misused by Police, but I am thinking about the Kahui twins case with this new charge. In that case a number of Adults in and out of the house where those boys died, knew what was occurring but refused to talk about when the Police were investigating. A cone of silence descended and not being a nark was seen as more important than bring the killer/s to justice.

      Anyway – talk of punishment or new charges or Justice is unfortunately never going to prevent this type of atrocity occurring in our cities, towns, hamlets and villages. Only people having a sense of right and wrong will stop this type of crime occurring.

      Something needs to be done to address the serious violence against kids. Street marches, wailing and crying at funerals and tangis, big words at trial – none of it will stop this type of thing. But Communities dropping the “don’t be a nark attitude will help”, people stepping up and reporting serious abuse and a social service that puts kids lives ahead of everything else may stop it. And when I say everything else, I mean the family or whanau is the best place for kids bullshit first and for most…

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  28th June 2016

        Finally. someone else says that the marches and the rest will do nothing.

        A community I know of has done something along the lines of not being afraid to be a nark.

        How would people have felt if the charge had been murder and they’d walked free because the injuries wouldn’t have killed him of themselves, he died because they didn’t bother to get help for him ? It HAD to be manslaughter. The emotionalism that wanted murder would have run the risk of one or both of them walking free. It’s a point of law. The name isn’t important, their going to prison is.

  2. Gezza

     /  27th June 2016

    The explanation makes sense. The non-parole period is too short. That’s the real sentence. Never mind any other precedents judge – set one. I expect the sentence will be appealed. Should’ve set the NPP very high.

    • “The non-parole period is too short.”

      Only if they are allowed out as soon as the period is up and they still pose a risk to society.

      • Gezza

         /  27th June 2016

        Disagree on their being allowed out as soon as the period is up. And that period will likely be appealed and reduced Pete.

        • I’m not sure that it’s likely to be reduced. It sounds like the prosecution and the judge have done their homework on how far they think they could take the sentence.

          • Gezza

             /  27th June 2016

            I expect that whether it gets reduced now rests in quality of the morality of Appealcourt, J.

  3. Iceberg

     /  27th June 2016

    Still can’t believe the free ride the mother has had on this. Duncan Garner enabling her and her “grief” makes me sick.

    What sort of mother is so disengaged with her child that this can happen?

    • Gezza

       /  27th June 2016

      I’m assuming one with insufficient proper family support who had to rely on a “friend”.

  4. Brown

     /  28th June 2016

    This sounds like a fair sentence …

    Not even close. This is simply beating a child to death and people who can do this should never see the light of day outside a cell again. I struggle with the term ” risk to society” as well, Society is not at risk – children and other people are, The jail term is a punishment that is imposed for what they actually did and should not be dependent on what they might do when they get out,

    • Gezza

       /  28th June 2016

      people who can do this should never see the light of day outside a cell again.

      I struggle with how you can see yourself as a Christian. Re-read the New Testament.

      • Brown

         /  29th June 2016

        This is nothing to do with religion and does not conflict with NT theology – its just common sense. Previous generations executed such as these (and many would do so again) but that goes to far for me. I know of a few really awful prisoners who have converted but they are still inside because their crimes warranted a long sentence. I store the worldly goods of a couple but would I happily have them at my house with my wife and children given their past is the question I must ask myself. These are tough questions that should not be trivialised because we are unlikely to ever have to really confront them.


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