Yesterday, the lawyer for one of the caregivers who killed Moko Rangitoheriri warned that there will be more child abuse cases as poverty increases.

On Monday, Tania Shailer and David Haerewa received the highest sentence ever imposed in New Zealand for manslaughter against a child - 17 years' jail each with a minimum of nine years for the manslaughter and ill treatment of Moko.

After the sentencing, Shailer's lawyer Ron Mansfield told Radio New Zealand there were consequences as poverty increased and living conditions deteriorated. That combination of factors could lead to some form of child abuse, whether it be physiological, physical or sexual, he said.

Financial, emotional and social pressures no doubt increase stress levels.


However, the abuse inflicted on Moko was, in my view, the result of a decision by Shailer and Haerewa to act without humanity. In carrying out their horrific acts, they chose not to be guided by personal conscience or by a societal expectation that children are to be nurtured and protected.

As Justice Sarah Katz pointed out when sentencing the pair, while there may have been a range of reasons they struggled to cope with their circumstances, other families in similar situations "did not brutalise and kill the children in their care".

In the wake of such cases, we question how this could be allowed to happen and how we can prevent it from happening again.

The protests held across the country on Monday sent a messsage that such abuse will not be tolerated. It was a message that needed to be expressed.

However, while such expressions of outrage are needed, it is important to remember that society is not to blame for Moko's death, Shailer and Haerewa alone are responsible for their abhorrent actions and they should carry that guilt for the rest of their lives.