Focus on Police Competence
The father of one of three girls who wrongly spent seven months behind bars is happy the police have apologised, but wants the officer he believes put them there removed from the force.
Vini Kavi said Detective Constable Trevor Franklin, who was in charge of the case, should be dismissed.
"I've got nothing against the police, it's just him. He's the one who made my girl go into prison. If he'd done his work properly, the girls wouldn't have been arrested."
His comments followed a visit yesterday visit from Superintendent Howard Broad, the Auckland police district commander, to the family's Mt Roskill home to apologise on behalf of the police for the seven months the girls served for something they did not do.
He said the apology was probably the most difficult thing he had had to do in his 26-year career.
"We each join the police with a view we are going to do good things, so to be responsible for an investigation such as this strikes at the heart of what we're trying to do ... This is a human business we're involved in and mistakes do occur.
"In this case it seems errors compounded right across the criminal justice system, and the normal checks and balances set in place simply didn't prevent this miscarriage of justice."
The Mt Roskill trio, Lucy Akatere, aged 17, Tania Vini, 17, and Krishla Fuataha, 16, were jointly convicted of an aggravated robbery near the Three Kings Mall in August 1999.
They were released on bail in April after more than seven months in Mt Eden Women's Prison when Bryan Rowe, a private investigator, and lawyer Gary Gotlieb helped persuade the police to reinvestigate the case.
After errors were uncovered, the girls were cleared of any involvement and an inquiry was begun into how the mistakes happened.
Mr Broad will not comment on the internal inquiry until it is completed, which he hopes will be before the end of next month.
Detective Constable Franklin has employed a lawyer.
Mr Kavi said the past two years had been hellish, but he had never given up his belief in his daughter's innocence. "People kept saying my daughter was guilty so why did I keep fighting, but she said she didn't do anything and I believed her. I didn't want to stop.
"It was hard to leave her inside. Sometimes I'd drive up [to the prison] at night and just look at the place, thinking my daughter is inside there."
He still has the 37 letters Tania sent him, including one to apologise for starting smoking, while she kept every phone card her dad gave her to call home - a stack several centimetres high that cost almost $400.
"I didn't know where I was since last year," said Mr Kavi. "I didn't know which way to go.
"We're all right now, but the damage has been done to the girls. They won't forget. Never."
The girls are receiving counselling and are hoping to return to school as soon as possible.
They were unavailable for comment as they have signed exclusive deals with two women's magazines.