Roy Wade: Lesser charge is a failing

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa appear in the Rotorua High Court today for sentencing for the death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri. Photo / Ben Fraser
Tania Shailer and David Haerewa appear in the Rotorua High Court today for sentencing for the death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri. Photo / Ben Fraser

The Attorney-General's statement raises more questions than it answers. As I understand the situation, Haerewa and Shailer were at home all day with Moko and each must have known what the other was doing. If one witnessed the other stomping sufficiently hard to rupture his bowel and chose not to intervene, is that not the clearest possible indication that it was because the passive defendant was assisting and encouraging the active one.

Do not forget that this was not a one-off loss of temper but, as Justice Sarah Katz described it, "extreme violence that was prolonged and gratuitous".

Both defendants were equally responsible for their total failure to seek the medical attention that might have saved Moko's life.

Of course, I do not have access to the evidence file but I consider a murder conviction would have been certain against her and very likely against him with the certainty of a manslaughter conviction if Haerewa had been found not guilty of murder.

What of the fact that some of the evidence came from young children? For many years now, the courts have admitted evidence from children by way of close circuit TV and pre-recorded interviews with specially trained interviewers.

Finally, for Attorney-General Chris Finlayson to say that plea-bargaining does not occur in the judicial system is plain wrong. Go to any judge-alone trial court and you will find the list of cases has been deliberately overloaded by 500 per cent or more. The prosecutor knows the only way to get rid of the surplus is to offer some defendants a reduction of the charge in exchange for a guilty plea.

Although I accept that money paid no part in the Rotorua decision, why do we continue to run the prosecution system in such a bizarre way? For several years now we have had a national public defence service yet we choose about a dozen or so private firms of lawyers to prosecute cases. Should we not have a Crown Prosecution Service?

Time was when I used to be paid more per hour to prosecute a driving charge than defend a murder. Now it seems the pendulum has swung the other way, with dog prosecutions being paid at a higher rate than murders, if Labour's David Parker is right. You cannot cut a budget by 25 to 40 per cent without it damaging the decision-making process.

- NZ Herald

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