By Tony Stickley
Women's groups are outraged that a jury let a man off a charge of murdering his partner because she provoked him by complaining to the police about being beaten up.
The case in the High Court at Wellington has brought calls for a change in the law to stop what the Labour justice spokesman Phil Goff described as a "travesty of justice."
"It seems to me absolutely to defy common sense that a person who was beaten so badly that she was taken to hospital, who then complained to the police, could have that complaint to the police used to reduce the seriousness of the offence and the length of the sentence."
Rape Crisis also condemned the decision last night as incomprehensible. Its national spokeswoman, Claire Benson, said it sent a dangerous signal to women agonising over whether to go through the right avenues in response to domestic violence.
The Minister of Justice, Tony Ryall, has told Mr Goff that the Government had no plans to review the law on provocation.
Officially, Mr Ryall would say last night only that provocation was a decision for a jury and that no one else but the 12 jurors knew what went on in the jury room. But a Ministry of Justice source said this was considered an "exceptional and somewhat anomalous" case.
"That is essentially why the minister is not convinced that there is any need to turn the whole system upside down."
Handing down an eight-year sentence, Justice Neazor said that Rodney James Leslie Tepu had originally stood trial for murder but on an argument that the killing was provoked, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.
The judge said Tepu beat his partner, Kim Ihaka, so severely the day before the fatal stabbing that she had to be taken to hospital.
Despite promising not to go to the police, Kim Ihaka was persuaded by her sister to lay a complaint because of the state she was in. "You ... told the police that you were getting angrier as time went on because you thought she might make a complaint about what you had done to her, although you had got a promise from her that she would not."
Later Tepu saw Kim Ihaka being brought home in a police car.
"On your version of events, you started to argue with her over the promise and the complaint and then got even angrier and, as you put it, you `lost it' and attacked her with two knives. She was dead within a very short time of making the complaint and the argument starting."
The judge said he did not question the jury's decision, but the verdict itself involved "tempering the law with mercy" and there was "no room for more."
By Tony Stickley