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.

 

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa sentencing

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, the two people responsible for the awful ill treatment and death of Moko Rangitoheriri, were found guilty of manslaughter and will be sentenced in Rotorua this morning.

Manslaughter can involve a wide range of severity and sentences can range from slight through to a life sentence similar to murder.

Also today there will be a number of protests around the country.

Concerns have been raised about the charges being downgraded from murder to manslaughter, to which the two plead guilty, with accusations of what effectively amounted to plea bargaining.

I won’t make a judgement on that without knowing the facts.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has said the decision to drop a murder charge was signed off by Solicitor-General Una Jagose and has called criticism of the plea deal criticism of the plea deal as “dangerous and ill-informed” but will explain further after the sentencing today.

Stuff reports Moko: Hit, kicked, thrown, bitten, stomped and smothered – but prosecutors can’t prove couple murdered the boy

The downgrading to manslaughter charges has outraged New Zealand and, in one of the most public displays of contempt of court in New Zealand history, thousands will march on the court houses across all across the country tomorrow. Marches have even been organised in Australia. 

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has slammed all criticism of the plea deal as “dangerous and ill-informed”. He will explain the decision “in words of one syllable” after tomorrow’s sentencing.

The Solicitor-General provides prosecution guidelines which Crown solicitors must follow, Finlayson says, the decision to drop a murder charge was signed off by Solicitor-General Una Jagose.

There will be a lot of interest in the sentence. Courts of New Zealand says this in the introduction to Sentencing:

Imposing a sentence (the punishment given to an offender) can be one of the most exacting tasks undertaken by a judge. By law sentences must reflect a number of considerations, some of which may be in conflict.[1] Some of the most important considerations are:

  • the seriousness of the offending
  • the interests of the victim
  • consistency with sentences imposed for similar offending
  • the personal circumstances of the offender

On manslaughter sentencing:

There are some offences for which the Court of Appeal has considered it inappropriate to prescribe a sentencing range.

One example of this is manslaughter – the maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment. The worst cases of manslaughter are near to murder and can attract very severe sentences of imprisonment.

But a conviction for manslaughter may also result where someone causes the death of another person by accident, without intending any harm, meaning that sentence of imprisonment may be inappropriate.

Given the wide range of circumstances that can all fall within “manslaughter”, it is not possible to provide a single guideline that addresses all cases.

In sentencing for manslaughter Judges take guidance instead from earlier cases involving manslaughter of a generally similar kind.

Without knowing all the details of the obviously horrific treatment of Moko that resulted in his death, this crime must rate near or at the higher end of the scale of severity.

 

 

 

Story on the death of Moko

Story on Newshub devoted their whole programme last night to the death of Moko Rangitoheriri.

You may have heard the name Moko Rangitoheriri.

You may have heard about his brutal death.

Three-year-old Moko was so horrifically abused, tortured and beaten to death over days and weeks that his mother did not recognised him in the morgue when she had to identify him.

The coroner Wallace Bain says it’s likely to be worse than what happened to Nia Glassie who was murdered eight years ago.

This story is confronting and harrowing but one that must be told.

Young Moko was under the care of early childhood teacher Tania Shailer and David Haerewa who have pleaded guilty to his manslaughter after murder charges were dropped.

The couple was looking after Moko and his sister while their mother cared for her other son in Starship Hospital in Auckland.

Moko’s mother, Nicola Dally-Paki first heard of the harrowing details of Moko’s prolonged death from her daughter who was just seven years old at the time.

Ms Dally-Paki is speaking out publicly for the first time to get justice for Moko and because she wants her other children back from Child Youth and Family’s care.

She sat down with Story to talk about exactly what happened.

Video: Moko’s mum on her search for justice

Warning: This story contains graphic details which some may find distressing.

Also:

Blind to torture, revolution required

Emerging details on the torture and death of three year old Moko Rangitoheriri’s death is damning of those who could have intervened, or at least could have tried to intervene.

And it’s damning of a culture of violence alongside a culture of turning a blind eye to violence.

Will yet another case of abuse, violence and killing finally provoke a serious standing up against these cultures?

Stacey Kirk: Many knew of Moko’s torture – now they’ll have to live with his death

OPINION: Would you call CYF on a hunch? We must all act to help our abused children – because getting outraged afterwards can’t save Moko. That’s why we are calling for a ministerial inquiry to discover how we can do better to protect our most innocent.

It was not just the two people who beat, tortured and eventually killed three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri who knew the little boy was at risk. There were others.

Kirk highlights a big part of then ongoing problem.

This public culture of not intervening is beyond disgraceful, so here’s the list of people and organisations that we know knew something – there are likely more:

Her list:

  • The Maori Women’s Refuge social worker: she followed up the seven-year-old’s claim by ringing Shailer. Shailer lied and blamed Moko’s sister. She said she feared for Moko’s safety once he was back in the hands of his mother.
  • The refuge was aware Shailer herself had escaped from a violent relationship with Haerewa and had returned to that relationship after Haerewa was let out of prison.
  • The same social worker was there when Shailer went in to CYF to say the children were at risk of being exposed to domestic violence.
  • Shailer told CYF she wasn’t coping with Moko, 11 days before his death. CYF denies being told Moko was being hurt.
  • Shailer told a friend Moko had fallen from a woodpile, when his situation was becoming dire. The friend was concerned, but never spoke up when Shailer declined her offer to drive them to the hospital.

At no point did anyone go to see Moko.

Had they done, they’d have seen damage no seven-year-old could ever inflict.

This is far from just a  Government problem, although they have to find ways of trying to address this better.

This is a family problem, a whanau problem, a community problem, a country’s problem and a country’s shame.

The trouble is, all named in the above list had at least one small piece of the puzzle. So why did no one seek Moko’s voice? Should they have done? Should the Government go knocking on doors at the slightest hint of trouble?

It’s a difficult and complex problem.

In the 1980’s social welfare visited me because a flag was raised about one of my daughters – she had been to A & E three times in a year. Being routinely checked out didn’t worry me because the accidents were easily explained – and no action was taken.

But still, thirty years later, the system is not protecting children at risk.

These are questions that needs answers. That is why the Sunday Star-Times is calling for Tolley to step in and call a full and independent inquiry.

Another Government inquiry? Is that where change should come from?

Isn’t it time families and whanau and communities stopped leaving it to another lengthy hand wringing inquiry and took responsibility for this crisis of violence?

Sure the Government can and should help.

But a revolution in caring for children has to be a revolution of the people.

For the people. Especially for the kids.