Rodney Hide: No justice for tortured Moko

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Moko suffered and died but the brutality and barbarity of his death is damaging to us all. Photo / Supplied
Moko suffered and died but the brutality and barbarity of his death is damaging to us all. Photo / Supplied

Solicitor-General Una Jagose owes us an explanation over the downgrading of charges against the pair who tortured and killed toddler Moko Rangitoheriri from murder to manslaughter.

That was in return for his killers David Haerewa and Tania Shailer pleading guilty to the manslaughter charge so saving the necessity of a trial for murder.

Jagose has offered no explanation. The decision seems inexplicable.

The torturing and killing of poor little Moko has saddened and angered New Zealanders to a degree that I lack the words to explain. Moko suffered and died but the brutality and barbarity of his death is damaging to us all.

I am frightened what I could do to his tormentors and killers given the chance. I know I am not alone in this. But we well recognise the dangers of rough justice and so choose not to surrender to the primitive instinct to avenge the pain and death of a little innocent.

We rely instead on our system of law and due process within which our authorities with their cool heads can act on our behalf.

It's that system of law and rational process that keeps us civilised even when affronted with behaviour so base as to sorely test us all.

It's ultimately Jagose's responsibility to prosecute Moko's tormentors and killers on our behalf. We enable her to get on with her job free of political interference and mob justice in the interests of civilised living.

That's the deal.

But what happens when her decision is offensive?

Murder is for when a person deliberately kills another or does so while acting recklessly knowing that death is likely.

Manslaughter is something less. It generally refers to accidental homicide arising from an illegal act where death could not reasonably be expected.

Although the maximum punishment of both offences is life imprisonment, the lesser charge by precedent attracts a lesser sentence.

There may well be good reason the Crown opted for manslaughter over murder but it has not been shared with the public. It should.

In the absence of any explanation my outrage and anger over 3-year-old Moko's death turns to the system that I expect to deliver justice.

The very suggestion that his death was somehow accidental is an affront. That should be a decision for a jury to make in open court, not an official in her office without explanation.

We wonder what we can do to counter the shocking child abuse that occurs in New Zealand. I know it's not the full answer but surely a start is to treat the crime for what it is.

Moko was killed in the most sickening of ways. If his death was accidental then I am left bewildered as to what would constitute the murder of a child.

We want our justice system cool and rational. That means it must be explicable. The downgrading of the charges against Moko's killers is not.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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