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The Dominion
June 7 2002

Freed girls still waiting for payout

Three teenage girls wrongly imprisoned for a crime they did not commit say they have had enough of waiting for compensation.

They now want police to pay at least part of the compensation they are due while the final amount is decided.

The three spent seven months in Mt Eden Women's Prison in Auckland after being convicted of an aggravated robbery in 1999. They were freed when an Auckland lawyer and a private investigator persuaded police to reopen their case.

The Court of Appeal later overturned the conviction and offered the girls "sympathy". Lucy Akatere and Tania Vini, both 17, and Krishla Fuataha, 16, said they were nowhere near the scene of the crime in the Auckland suburb of Three Kings.

Police apologised to the girls but their lawyer Gary Gotlieb said they deserved compensation. The seven months they spent in jail had changed their lives and seriously damaged their education.

Police began two inquiries, one into the original crime and an internal report into the way police handled the investigation.

However, Mr Gotlieb said the issue had dragged on long enough after the police began their inquiry in April last year. A draft of the internal inquiry was completed several months ago and handed to Superintendent Howard Broad, the officer in charge of the Auckland police district.

Mr Gotlieb said he had seen the draft and it failed to look at whether police had failed in their duties.

"It is just not good enough," he said. Mr Broad had told him he could not look at the report for two months.

Mr Gotlieb would not say what compensation he believed the girls deserved, but last year when the Court of Appeal overturned their conviction, he said it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I would prefer it to be confidential," he said.