Rodney Hide: Splitting hairs over death

We are angry and horrified at the brutal torturing and killing of little Moko. Photo / Supplied
We are angry and horrified at the brutal torturing and killing of little Moko. Photo / Supplied

Arrogance. Prime Minister John Key warned of it when he was elected for a third term. Attorney General Chris Finlayson personifies it.

We are angry and horrified at the brutal torturing and killing of little Moko. The Crown then inexplicably downgraded the charge from murder to manslaughter. Our anger and horror turned to the Crown. How could that be?

Finlayson slammed commentary on the subject as "dangerous and ill-informed". Of course we are ill-informed. We can't understand the decision.

But dangerous? In what way exactly?

Finlayson promised he would explain after sentencing "in words of one syllable". He clearly sees the commentators as stupid as well as dangerous.

Following this week's sentencing we now have Finlayson's explanation.

It falls shockingly short.

"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."

I am not an expert. I do not hold office. I have not followed "robust process".

And again I risk incurring the Attorney General's wrath, but he is wrong.

The test that the Crimes Act provides is not "murderous intent".

It's sufficient if "the offender means to cause to the person killed any bodily injury that is known to the offender to be likely to cause death, and is reckless whether death ensues or not".

The downgrade to manslaughter is a disgrace to justice, and a further abuse of a poor little boy.

Justice Katz summarised the test when sentencing: "You have only been convicted of manslaughter and therefore, for sentencing purposes, I must assume that you did not intend to kill Moko, and that you did not foresee that your violent assaults on him might cause his death."

The Attorney General is wrong in the necessity of "murderous intent" and doesn't trouble himself in his prepared statement to explain how one or both could have escaped manslaughter should the murder charge have failed.

The downgrade to manslaughter is a disgrace to justice, an insult to civil society, and a further abuse of a poor little boy already brutally abused and killed.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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