Hide on Moko and the injustice of justice


Una Jagose via RNZ

I was thinking “not Moko again”, and then I felt ashamed.   This isn’t something that gets “old” and we don’t talk about any more.

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.

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.

However much it pains me to say so, it may very well not have been the intent of Moko’s torturers to kill the poor little fellow.  And since manslaughter does have life imprisonment as an option, it is up to the legal system to ensure that Moko gets the justice he deserves.  If there was ever a case when the public have a need to keep faith in the justice system, it is when an innocent is tortured to death over an extended period of time, and that resulting in an appropriate response from the legal system.


– Rodney Hide, NZ Herald


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  • PersonOfColor:WHITE

    Injustice would be if they do NOT get a life sentence.

    • Superman

      There will probably be injustice.

  • Lux

    I read this the other day, it happened in Australia and the monster was only charged with manslaughter as well. It is a very similar case.

    A BRISBANE father-of-two has been sentenced to up to eight years behind bars for the brutal and “horrific” torture and killing of his vulnerable 13-month-old son.

    He had earlier pleaded guilty to torture and manslaughter charges, but only after he initially lied to police, claiming the boy had slipped in the bath.

    Crown Prosecutor Danny Boyle told the court the man had deliberately burned his son’s left foot on the kitchen stove after he “threw” the boy across the lounge-room into a wall, causing head injuries he would later die from.

    The man tortured the child at Beenleigh between 12.43am and 8.20pm on December 28, 2012, when he had temporary custody of the child for two days.

    A doctor told the court that the child would have suffered “severe physical pain and suffering”.

    He only got eight years after the court was told he had a very high chance of killing again ??


    • Wheninrome

      Hopefully he is not a New Zealander who will return to this country. I am sure Kelvin is on it.

  • Rodney_Hide

    The jury could decide manslaughter. They now can’t determine murder. The facts say murder.

    Rodney Hide

    • Pluto

      I suspect the problem is there’s two of them. While the facts say murder i expect it would be unclear just who did what, and they wouldn’t be volunteering any clarity.
      Natural justice says put them both away for murder, a plea bargain may have been the only way foward.

      • Jimmie

        Thats not really a problem. If the Prosecution can’t prove which one caused the death but can prove that it must have been either of them, then they can both be convicted of Murder.

        • Nyla

          has to be without reasonable doubt so they may have got off

      • Wheninrome

        I am sure they would give each other up.

  • Second time around

    A fully defended trial for murder/ manslaughter could have lead to an acquittal and no punishment for anyone. It is not an uncommon outcome and there is no reason for the Solicitor General to spell it out for Rodney’s benefit. The admission of guilt for the lesser charge means that a punishment will be meted out by the court.

    • RightofSingapore

      How could they possibly be acquitted in this case? From what we know about what they did, there is no way they weren’t at least reckless as to whether death resulted. The SG does owe us an explanation, justice must be seen to be done, how can the public have any confidence in the legal system when decisions like this are not explained? There MUST be transparency in the system.

      • Nyla

        reckless to cause death isnt as severe as manslaughter

        • RightofSingapore

          167 Murder defined

          Culpable homicide is murder in each of the following cases:


          if the offender means to cause the death of the person killed:


          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

      • Seriously?

        So which one did it? What proof do you have of that?

    • Superman

      I know what you are saying and the Kahui twins come to mind but I don’t think in this case any amount of political or cultural interference would have got them off.

    • Nyla

      thanks thats another slant on it

    • biscuit barrel

      A lesser charge means a lessor sentence as these things are finely graduated by the Court of Appeal. A guilty plea gets a reduction in sentence as well, whic is also mandatory. If no previous convictions down it comes again.

    • Rodney_Hide

      To be fair I wasn’t claiming an explanation for just me. But everyone. It’s a big call in such a case and either the solicitor general or attorney general should be up for explaining it as it was a call taken on everyone’s behalf.



      • Second time around

        For all we know, the prosecution case could have problems with witnesses, doubt as whether the defendants’ can judge right from wrong, defendants blaming each other as in the Kahui case, that sort of thing. Murder cases are almost always defensible, and often the wrong side wins. It is unlikely the S.G. could state such concerns in public.

    • Tinia


  • Carl

    Lets just hope we have a strong judge when it comes to sentencing this pair.

    • Nyla

      by the time their sentencing comes up they will have served most of it

      • KGB

        Sentencing end of June. I will wait and see.

  • Lux

    What is the point in having a murder charge, when it is not used to it’s full extent of the law, and charge them with every and any crime or misdemeanour that they can think of in order to get the largest possible judgement against them.

  • Superman

    What sort of president does this set? Now anyone can have his or her charge downgraded to manslaughter just by pleading guilty. If this is not so then we have a differential legal system with one rule for some and another rule for others.

    • Lux

      Exactly, and this is such a terrible torture and murder case, it is insane.

  • Hesaidwhat?

    As I understand it from someone working close to the case the reason for the acceptance of the manslaughter plea was to protect the other children who witnessed the abuse. It was decided that to have them relive and retell the horrible things they saw, which they would have to have done in murder trial, would set back all the progress they have made in counseling since then. If that is the case it adds a different slant to it. Moko sadly no one can help anymore, the other kids involved can be helped. Dont forget that a Judge can still impose a life sentence for manslaughter.

    • Wheninrome

      Well I don’t buy that argument, it is now a well known fact that talking about things assists you in getting through, not talking and burying the memory does not assist anyone in dealing with their issues.
      Women talk to their friends, men struggle to talk.

      • Hesaidwhat?

        Clearly you have never seen a victim being questioned by a defense lawyer in court. Professional counseling is quite a different matter to giving court evidence.These are young kids who witnessed a child being beaten to death not a woman talking to her mate about her husband being a lazy slob. Your comments are naive.

        • KGB

          Gone are the days of Paul East style defence questioning. (I sat in on a rape trial that argued the victim only had a bruise the size of a 1 cent coin, therefore barely fought back.)
          We have evolved.
          Victims, especially children are better protected today. I agree that the children would be better served by a trial.
          They would not have to actually face those monsters. Their testimony would be screened, and probably empower them.

          • Hesaidwhat?

            Regardless of whether they were behind a screen or video linked, on what planet would reliving those events in detail be “empowering” for an 8 year old?

        • Wheninrome

          I agree with KGB children generally do not have to go to the trial their testimony is taken separately with a child advocate there to protect them from being harrassed,

  • sandalwood789

    This proves beyond any doubt that our “justice” system is a complete joke. It makes you wonder why you should obey *any* laws in this country when judges and sentencing are so out of step with common-sense.

  • biscuit barrel

    The reason why a guilty verdict to a lessor charge was accepted in Rotorua is because of this, as stated by the outgoing Rotorua Crown Solictor,

    Reduced money.

    “Mr Pilditch said he had always planned on becoming an independent barrister in Auckland and recently announced funding changes meant now was a good time to move on.
    “There are changes on the way to the way Crown solicitors are structured and funded [that will mean a] reduction in funding to this office.
    “We had to look at the model that we had and the number of senior people that could be maintained.” Rotorua Post. 2013.

    If you reduce the money and the senior staffing as a result, then fewer important cases will be taken to trial.

    The Minister responsible for the reduced funding, Chris Finlayson

    Its been common for previous murder trials for the defence to admit from the beginning that the crime was manslaughter but not murder, but still the question was up to the jury . Not anymore.

  • KGB

    Exactly. Let’s try to hold our breathe and see what the sentence is.
    Should it not reflect the horror of the crime, it will be time to act.

    • biscuit barrel

      Thats what we are all worried about, the idea that a stiff sentence is an ‘injustice’ allways works for the defendant.
      lets hope it works the other way this time, the judge uses his/her perogative to make a stiff sentence and the appeal court backs it so that the precedent its set strongly.

  • Lux

    So in the case of Manslaughter a judge has discretion to impose any penalty up to and including life imprisonment. But … it has to be consistent with sentences imposed for similar offending.

    So make of that what you will ..

    • biscuit barrel

      Not any more, Sentencing Act and Appeal Court decisions means manslaughter ‘starts’ around 8 years or so and could go lower.

    • SlightlyStrange

      And we all know those penalties have been well short of life imprisonment in 99% of cases.

  • intelligentes candida diva

    There is sufficient information in msm, social media and other avenues where parents/caregivers/families can get help These killiers pass the buck after the damage is done/
    No case has affected me more than reading of Craig Manukau, that poor wee boy trying to get some happiness.
    It breaks my heart for these kids The adults need charged with murder no plea bargaining.
    If there was any doubt read the link It is sad reading and left me feeling sick in my stomach
    STOP justifying these killers it only allows others to be exempt and minimises the value of the child’s life


  • taxpayer

    It may be a safe and cost effective conviction, but it is NOT justice.
    If you treated a prisoner of war the same way as Moko or Nia were treated you would be charged with war crimes and possibly get the death sentence, not a wet bus ticket.
    Stomp, slap, starve a child to death in NZ, manslaughter.
    And it’s not just Moko, most of these cases end with manslaughter convictions.
    Justice must be seen to be done, especially for such brutal sadistic crimes.
    A strong message needs to be sent considering our countries statistics on child abuse, and soft charges are not the right message.

  • Nechtan

    Cases like this, just reinforce my belief that we need to do away with the current maximum sentences (which very rarely get imposed) and bring in mandatory minimum sentences.

  • Tinia

    It doesn’t matter if they actually wanted to kill him, if death is a likely outcome of your actions then it’s murder according to the Crimes Act.

    Otherwise “I didn’t mean to kill him I just wanted to teach him a lesson by shooting him in the head” would be a watertight defence.

    In fact if two people do an armed robbery, and one of them shoots someone dead, they both go down fws murder.

    In any murder trial the jury have the option of returning a verdict of not guilty murder but guilty of manslaughter, although what jury would do that in this case?

    This comes down to cowardice and cost cutting. End of story. It feels like an outrage because it is.

  • Seriously?

    I don’t think the plea arrangement is inexplicable.

    What if the truth is this: The prosecution had a good deal of proof that one or both of them did it, but didn’t think they could prove that he did it, or that she did. For him to be found guilty you have to prove he did it. Same for her.

    Should they risk not getting any conviction at all or offer them manslaughter? Bear in mind that manslaughter carries the same maximum penalty as murder.

    I don’t know if this is the situation here, be suspect (hope) it is.