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The Dominion Post
August 6 2002

Blunder report finished
by Glen Scanlon

Police Commissioner Rob Robinson has been sent the report of an internal inquiry into the wrongful imprisonment of three teenage girls for a crime they did not commit.

The trio are seeking compensation -- likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars -- after being convicted of an aggravated robbery and spending seven months in Auckland's Mt Eden women's prison 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 one into the way the investigation was handled.

Mr Gotlieb said yesterday that the internal inquiry had been completed and a report sent to Mr Robinson in the past week.

He said it was an understatement to say the situation had been dragging on too long. The report would absolve the girls but what it found about the original police investigation was the important issue.

The trio had sent a provisional application to the Government seeking compensation so a Queen's Counsel could be appointed to consider the case.

Mr Gotlieb said that after Mr Robinson had considered the report it would probably be sent to the Police Complaints Authority. It could be November before the situation was resolved.

Last year, he said the teenagers could be seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. They were trying to rebuild their lives and had returned to school. One had given birth.