The parents of a 13-year-old boy who died from untreated cancer were last night found not guilty of the manslaughter of their son.

But Peni Laufau, 52, and Faafetai Laufau, 41, both of Mangere, were found guilty of failing to provide Tovia Laufau with the necessaries of life, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

A small group of family members wept as the verdict was announced in the High Court at Auckland after almost five hours of deliberation by the jury.

But the family's tears turned to anger as they shielded the couple from cameras when they rushed with their faces covered from the High Court to a waiting car.


The Laufaus were granted bail and remanded for sentencing on October 13.

Tovia died last September with a cancerous tumour weighing 15kg on his leg. The cancer had spread to his lungs. The court had earlier heard how the tumour oozed and smelled.

Despite medical warnings that Tovia's condition would eventually kill him, the couple repeatedly refused vital treatment.

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Sergeant Neil Hallett, said he was glad the case was over.

"It was tough on everybody," he said.

"I'm particularly pleased that the parents have been censured for not providing the medical treatment that could have saved Tovia's life."

The trial also raised questions about Starship hospital's inaction because it was wary of public opinion generated by the Liam Williams-Holloway case.

Justice Judith Potter had told the jury in her summing up yesterday that the issue was whether the parents' omission to obtain medical help was without lawful excuse and whether that omission led to death.


Did the parents' behaviour depart in a major way from the standard of care that the jury would expect of reasonable people?

The Crown maintained that despite a cancer diagnosis and medical warnings that Tovia's condition would kill him, the couple repeatedly refused vital treatment.

Crown prosecutor Mark Woolford said Tovia was robbed of the chance of life by parents who failed to get treatment for his cancer.

But defence lawyer Frank Hogan told the jury that Tovia's choice not to have treatment was an informed one.

In respecting that decision, the parents acted with lawful excuse, he said.

Justice Potter told the jury: "You will have to decide whether Tovia was capable of making an informed choice not to have medical treatment."

Mr Woolford said it was the crown case that Tovia did not have the competence, capacity, maturity or the relevant information or knowledge about his predicament to make an informed choice to refuse treatment.

Mr Hogan resumed his attack on the health service, which he said was "less than adequate."

He said that a letter from the health authorities last April showed that they knew there was a requirement to seek a court order to ensure treatment, but it was deflected by the "bogyman"of public opinion surrounding the Liam Williams-Holloway case.

However, Mr Woolford dismissed the criticism as irrelevant, saying it was merely the Laufaus trying to blame the system for their own inaction.