Moko's death sparks Government inquiry into laws around murder and manslaughter

Jacinda Ardern says the plea bargain in the case was unfathomable.
DEREK FLYNN / FAIRFAX NZ

Jacinda Ardern says the plea bargain in the case was unfathomable.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has ordered a report into whether law changes are needed, after the killers of Moko Rangitoheriri had their murder charges downgraded to manslaughter. 

But a review of sentencing in child abuse cases is not needed, Prime Minister John Key says, despite outcry over a manslaughter charge in the horrific death of Moko Rangitoheriri.

The Taupo boy was meant to be in the care of David Haerewa and Tania Shailer, but the pair violently abused the three-year-old for weeks, kicking, slapping, stomping on him and rubbing faeces in his face before his death on August 10, 2015.

Moko Rangitoheriri was a "cheeky" boy who loved Bob the Builder.
SUPPLIED

Moko Rangitoheriri was a "cheeky" boy who loved Bob the Builder.

The Crown Prosecution Service's decision to lay manslaughter instead of murder charges has drawn ire, with Labour MP Jacinda Ardern calling it "unfathomable".

READ MORE:
SPECIAL REPORT: Faces of Innocents
Moko's mum speaks about her little boy
Stacey Kirk: Many knew of Moko's torture – now they'll have to live with his death
Family remembers Moko Rangitoheriri, a 'little go-kart of a boy' 
Pair plead guilty to Taupo boy's manslaughter
Carer forced sister to deliver final blow to Moko

The pair are yet to be sentenced, and Adams would not be drawn on Moko's case. 

Nicola Dally-Paki told Story how her daughter pleaded with their caregivers to take Moko Rangitoheriri to see a doctor ...

Nicola Dally-Paki told Story how her daughter pleaded with their caregivers to take Moko Rangitoheriri to see a doctor after he had been abused.

"I acknowledge the outrage New Zealanders are feeling as details of Moko's mistreatment surface. It's a truly horrific and heart-breaking case. It's fair to say that communities across the country need to do more to stand up against family violence.

"Decisions around whether to prosecute and what charges are made independently of Ministers. I can't be drawn on specific cases as both crown prosecutions and judicial decisions are quite rightly kept absolutely separate from executive function," she said. 

But she confirmed she had asked for a report from officials on whether Moko's case highlighted any systemic issues with the law around murder and manslaughter. 

Tania Shailer, 26 and David William Haerewa, 43, were due to stand trial for the murder of Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri, ...
MATT SHAND / FAIRFAX NZ

Tania Shailer, 26 and David William Haerewa, 43, were due to stand trial for the murder of Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri, 3, but instead they lodged pleas to the lesser charges in the Rotorua High Court.

Initial advice is that officials won't be in a position to give reliable advice until the sentencing hearing is complete and it's clear what they are being sentenced on and what factors influenced Crown Law's decision.

Ad Feedback

"While the matter awaits sentencing, I can't comment further."

Pushed on the question of a review of sentencing this morning, Key said he didn't think one was needed.

Asked whether the case set a dangerous precedent for other child abusers, Key refused to comment.

"Individual cases have to be handled by the courts and not politicians," he said.

"I will say that when a charging decision is made, these matters are independently considered by the Crown Prosecutor. They are the best people to ultimately judge what the right charge should be."

Moko's mother, Nicola Dally-Paki, speaking about the case publicly for the first time on Monday, said she missed warning signs.

Ardern, the party's children's spokeswoman, said the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to lay manslaughter charges was justifiably the source of outrage.

Family members have previously said they were told murder charges were not laid because the toddler did not die at the scene.

Moko died in Taupo Hospital after five weeks of beatings and abuse from Shailer and Haerewa. They have pleaded to manslaughter and will be sentenced in Rotorua.

Plea bargaining, in New Zealand, was historically an option used by the defence but, in recent years, prosecutors have also used bargaining to expedite court proceedings.

Funding arrangements for lawyers and murder trials, which can take weeks, have changed.

Ardern said Moko's death was horrific and it was hard to see how the case was interpreted as anything other than murder.

"This should never have been a case where a plea deal was done.

"I have looked over 40 cases of child abuse and, while manslaughter is a charge that features, it's unfathomable that the Crown prosecutors used it in this case.

"Shailer and Haerewa were originally charged with murder in October last year, only to have that downgraded to manslaughter, a charge they then pled guilty to in May," Ardern said.

The list MP said the law was not the problem in the case.

The problem was the plea deal, she said.

The coroner appointed to the case, Wallace Bain, has drawn parallels with the case of toddler Nia Glassie, who died in 2007 aged three after systematic abuse.

Ardern said the summary of facts told of Moko being bitten, dropped face first on the floor, stomped on and kicked. Injuries were extensive and when he was admitted to hospital his face was swollen, his abdomen was distended and he was covered in bruises and bites.

"With so many injuries the post-mortem wasn't even able to pinpoint one cause of death. A haemorrhage deep in Moko's abdomen, a bowel rupture and swelling to the brain were all contenders.

"Justice would have been better served by allowing this case to go to trial, and allowing a jury to decide," says Ardern.

The Ministry of Social Development, in a lengthy statement, said the department sympathised with the family and her mother's loss in terrible circumstances.

Dally-Paki is currently fighting a Child, Youth and Family decision to remove her other children from her custody while they deal with the loss of Moko.

"CYF do not believe that it is in the best interests of her other children to be living with Nicola at this time.

"It is important to note that Child, Youth and Family became involved days before Moko was killed because Tania Shailer, who has been convicted for her part in his death, had reported she was concerned that Moko and his siblings would not be safe with their mother, who was planning to collect them from Tania's care.

"It is easy to make judgements in hindsight.

"Two people have still to be sentenced for killing Moko, the Family Court has still to hear the custody case, and the Coroner has still to investigate the events leading up to Moko's death," the statement said.

Moko's family have previously told of their shock at the criminal justice system.

The Crown prosecutor did not push for murder charges to be laid against Moko's killers because it was his own body that killed him, Moko's family have said.

An exact cause of death could not be established but a ruptured bowel, caused by stomping, and severe head trauma, were put forward as reasons.

Family members were told murder charges would no longer be pursued.

"When I first heard about their charge I thought what?," a family member said previously.

"Then she explained because he wasn't killed on the spot, but because his ruptured bowel was killing him, it wasn't murder.

"I just think if you take a life it should be murder not manslaughter."

Specific charges also exist for failing to provide care for a child, but these were also dropped.

Sign up to receive our new evening newsletter Two Minutes of Stuff - the news, but different.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

New boss as Stride Property

Philip Littlewood has been appointed chief executive of Stride Property Group.

Listed property firm appoints Philip Littlewood as chief executive.

Govt skips sugar tax debate

Our politicians can't agree on whether to introduce a tax on sugary drinks.

There was a debate on whether we should tax sugar... and the Government was nowhere in sight.

Helping ex-prisoners break cycle

Giving prisoners a chance are Department of Corrections' community employment and education officer Stephen Hemara, ...

One company has hired seven ex-prisoners and says they are "just people" who deserve a chance.

Tsunami would hit thousands

Auckland Council has $2.72 million in capital funding in the Long Term Plan for public alerting systems such as sirens.

Thousands of people would be affected if a tsunami hit popular beaches to Auckland's north.

Wellington

Ticket scalpers on notice

Westpac Stadium chief executive Shane Harmon says the pitch is in "perfect condition" ahead of Tuesday's Lions encounter ...

Wellington stadium boss talks tough on illegal ticket sales ahead of Lions' double-header.

Tyre slasher out of jail

Miramar tyre slasher David Francis Johns has successfully appealed his jail term and is to be released.

He slashed the tyres of more than 100 cars, but judge puts him back on the road.

Crash pilot loses his licence video

Helicopter pilot Rick Lucas survived a chopper crash into water at Porirua

Rick Lucas grounded, and firm loses certification, after Porirua harbour plunge.

Welcome to NZ: Here's a $200 fine

Dave and Viv Perry were fined $200 for breaching Napier City Council's freedom camping bylaw, despite making "a real ...

Council official had a rude awakening for Lions fans who thought they'd obeyed rules.

Canterbury

'Nasty' comments plague police FB

Police use Facebook to find suspects, fugitives and missing people, but "nasty" comments plague their pages.

Posts about suspects have become the modern equivalent of 1900's "freak shows", expert says.

Bain camp to get rifle

Pathologist Alexander Dempster, at David Bain's trial in 2009, demonstrates a possible angle of the shot to Robin Bain's ...

The gun used to kill the Bain family in Dunedin will be returned to David Bain via his supporter Joe Karam.

A 'multi-billion dollar problem'

Earthquake lawyer Peter Woods says about 65 per cent of Canterbury homes have rubble foundations, which can be problematic.

Quake damage could be hiding under the floors of pre-1970s homes in Christchurch.

Pedestrian hit by car dies

Emergency services investigate how Joseph Bertogg came to be hit by a car in Blenheim last week. (File photo)

Blenheim man Joseph Bertogg dies in hospital after being hit by a car last week.

Waikato

Build cheaper, ditch the garage

Marshall Bryce is completing his MBA at Waikato University.

Hamilton builder has concrete plans to tackle housing affordability.

Tonic for small towns

Waikato University Professor of population health Ross Lawrenson.

Heath bosses are looking across the ditch to see how rural docs are helping revive small towns.

SFO swoops on river trust

Roger Pikia is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, but remains chair of the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust.

The SFO has swooped on the offices of a trust tasked with cleaning up the Waikato River.

Waikato to world stage

Diaz Grimm said America feels like home to him now.

Kiwi rapper mixing with man who helped superstars Eminem and 50 Cent.

Taranaki

'Smoked' by waves for the giggles video

Members of the public avoid the big waves caused by high tides along the Coastal Walkway.

Despite warnings, thrill-seekers clamber over barriers to wander through huge waves crashing over coastal walkway.

Parks not in the plan

Full carpark at North Taranaki Visitor Centre during Easter holiday weekend last year

Visitors to Mt Taranaki will have to keep fighting to find a carpark.

Skate park to be lit up

Vinny Horwell, 2, from Lepperton flies through a puddle on his bike at the East End Skate Park on Sunday.

A team of four are working towards getting lights for the East End Skate Park.

Stolen car 'well on fire'

A car reported stolen went up in flames.

Police are now looking for three teens seen leaving the scene.

Manawatu

Escape from blaze

A Palmerston North family home, on Featherston St, was destroyed when a fire tore through it on Monday morning.

A Palmerston North house was on fire, but its residents got out.

Elderly abuse concerns

Age Concern is calling for people needing help to pick up their phones.

Many victims are too ashamed to speak out, says Age Concern's chief executive.

World scrum record attempt

Black Ferns fullback Selica Winiata in action against Australia  in Christchurch during the International Women's Rugby ...

There's a three-day Winter Festival tapping into the Lions tour.

Robbery accused in court

Palmerston North's West End Store was robbed on the evening of June 21.

A Palmerston North dairy owner is still in hospital, five days after confronting a robber.

Nelson

School's out for Christine

Christine Harrison is saying goodbye to Nelson Central School after 40 years of teaching there.

After 40 years' service, Nelson Central School deputy principal Christine Harrison is calling it a day.

Queen St slowing down

Vehicles travelling along the commercial section of the main street in Richmond will have to keep to 30kmh from August.

The speed limit along a stretch of Richmond's main street will drop to 30kmh.

Sunny Marlborough a class act

A pruning session at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology campus, in Blenheim, impresses visiting agents ...

Top of the south described as country's "best kept secret" for international students.

School fair's another quacker

Rohan Haskell, left, helps release the ducks into the water at the Riwaka School annual noon duck race, Kaiteriteri Beach.

Sun and support made Riwaka School's annual duck race fundraiser a huge success.

Marlborough

Tagging inspires theatre mural

Marlborough Civic Theatre Trust chairman Kevin Moseley wants the Marlborough community to have input into a mural design ...

A daring piece of graffiti on a Blenheim theatre has led the trust behind the building to consider their own artwork as a replacement.

Driver admits guilt

Lara Glover, 16, died in the car crash on February 19.

Teen admits dangerous driving causing death but challenges police version of events.

Two drivers hospitalised

Fire, ambulance and police attended the crash on New Renwick Rd.

Fire, ambulance and police respond to two-car crash.

Bail pending fraud sentencing

Coffey was accused of helping deceive his former employer, the Department of Internal Affairs.

Former gambling inspector Kevin Coffey gets bail until fraud sentencing.

South Canterbury

From Nicaragua to Geraldine

Survivor contestant Shannon Quinn said the first thing she did when she was voted off the reality television show was to ...

Former Survivor contestant sought solace at home in Geraldine after Nicaragua competition.

Timaru taggers caught

Community Patrol graffiti co-ordinator Trish Andrews cleaning a postbox on Guinness St.

Police catch up with Timaru taggers after community patrol records incidents

Mayors support anti-plastic stance

Timaru District mayor Damon Odey supports an anti-plastic waste stance.

South Canterbury's mayors say they are backing an anti-plastic waste push.

Black spot targeted

John and Linda Cant, grandparents of Ruby Marris, 5, who was killed in a head-on collision near Moeraki in February ...

New safety system installed on high-risk stretch of road near Moeraki.

Southland

Struggle to keep Maori language alive

Former Te Wharekura o Arowhenua school principal Arni Wainui.

''If we lose our language we lose a large part of who we are and who we identify ourselves as."

Search underway gallery video

A police vehicle in the Slope Point area on Monday.

Search and rescue operation underway in Southland after fisherman reported overdue.

Pet dog shot dead

Max's owner found his body on Friday evening near the front gate of their property.

"Playful, friendly" labrador found dead at home with a bullet in his chest.

Strip and dip at Winter Fest video

A bright orange birdman leaps from the wharf on Queenstown's lakefront.

Scene of unseasonal jollity unfolds on Queenstown's lakefront as near-nude men and women fall over one another and rafts lose crew.

Ad Feedback