Slain teen's mother lashes out at justice system

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 15:41 08/02/2013
Fairfax NZ

Christina Wikaira, mother of slain teen Izak Wikaira Millanta, speaks after the sentencing of her son's killer.

Millanta
VICTIM: Slain teen Izak Millanta.
Manawanui Stewart
Manawanui Stewart
coastlands assault 1
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Police forensic staff work at the scene where Izak Millanta, 17, was found unconscious in Paraparaumu.

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The grieving mother of slain Kapiti teen Izak Wikaira Millanta has lashed out at the justice system, saying "everything was a battle" following his death.

Christine Wikaira said victims did not have enough rights and her family's efforts to reveal the truth surrounding her son's death had been blocked by police and coronial services.

''Through this investigation we have realised that the truth does not always prevail, that knowledge of what really happened cannot always be supported by acceptable evidence, that the justice system protects and rewards offenders while obstructing any effort by victims to reveal the truth'', Ms Wikaira said.

''Throughout this process, I have felt like everything was a battle where my family's needs were not met.

"My family and I feel very let down by the justice system of this country."

Manawanui Stewart, 26, was sentenced to six years in prison when he appeared in the High Court at Wellington this morning. He had earlier plead guilty to charges of manslaughter, assault with intent to injure and assault in relation to three separate incidents on the night of Izak's fatal bashing in August last year.

The 17-year-old was found lying unresponsive in a car park at Coastlands mall, Paraparaumu, after he was chased, pushed to the ground and then kicked and stomped on.

Paramedics fought to save him for nearly an hour before he was taken to Wellington Hospital for emergency surgery. He died in the early hours of August 12.

During the sentencing a man was ejected from the court when he yelled out "it [the charge] should have been murder". In sentencing Stewart, Justice Ron Young said Izak was killed in a "brutal attack for the most trivial of reasons".

"It seems clear that you get intoxicated and this turns you into a bully.

"This was a choice you made ... and in my mind this is a serious, violent, persistent attack."

Earlier, six victim impact statements from Izak's family were read to the court.

Ms Wikaira said her son was ''killed in a frenzy of senseless rage''. 

''The blood of Izak Wikaira Millanta is on the hands of those that took his life. 

''It will be your whakapapa, stained by innocent blood, your tainted family history that will carry on into the future."

She also spoke of not being able to return to work following her son's death and the financial burden it had placed on her family.

''Our sentence is a life one, our sentence is to never see Izak achieve his potential,'' Ms Wikaira said.

She described her son as a compassionate and empathetic leader who stood up to others.

''He had an open mind, he had a sense of humour, and ... he had a beauty and a strength that some people never find in their time here on earth.  

''He stood up to bullies and protected others from them and in the end they beat him to death for refusing to be afraid.

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''Izak's hopes and dreams were taken by force and violence - the very things he stood against. 

''Words cannot express the pain, I watch as my family struggles to live one day at a time. 

''The enormity of this loss will never lose its power to hurt and sadden us."  

She criticised the judicial process and expressed concern about the rights of a victim's family to a lawyer and legal aid.

''The decision not to charge anyone with murder and to only charge one of the two men present remains inexplicable to us."

She could not understand why no arrests were made on the night of the attack, even though police had been given the names of both men involved. Early arrests could have provided crucial forensic evidence, she said.

Stewart was arrested 36 hours after the attack. Another man spoke to police, but was never charged. 

The family had been refused the right to review a coroner's post mortem, which drew no conclusion about Izak's fatal injuries and how they were caused, she said.

Outside court, Stewart's emotional mother Cushla Goodman said her son was not a bully.

"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and this is a result of helping friends in a situation they should have dealt with themselves. 

"My son is very sorry for what he has done - truly he is. We are all victims."

She admitted her son had not had a good upbringing, but that did not justify his actions.

Ms Wikaira, speaking outside court, said the family was "slightly surprised" at the length of the sentence. They had been warned it might be lower, she said. However, the sentence gave the family no comfort. "It is a travesty of justice."

Izak's father Steve Millanta was too emotional to finish reading his victim impact statement inside the court. Outside he said the sentence "doesn't sit well". 

"I've just relived it, it's not nice."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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