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The Dominion Post
August 15 2002

QC appointed to advise on innocent girls' compo claim

Justice Minister Phil Goff has appointed a Queen's counsel to give him independent advice on an application for compensation for three teenage girls wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.

Mr Goff has received a preliminary application for compensation from Tania Vini, 17, Lucy Akatere, 17, and Krishla Fuataha, 16, who were convicted of aggravated robbery and spent seven months in Auckland's Mt Eden women's prison in 1999.

They were freed when police reopened the case and their conviction was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Goff has appointed Kristy McDonald, QC, to provide independent advice on whether the girls meet the criteria for compensation and, if so, what amount is appropriate.

Among relevant factors would be the conduct of Crown agencies, including the police, Mr Goff said.

Police had undertaken an internal investigation and this would be relevant to Ms McDonald's inquiry.

"Although the manner in which she undertakes this work is a matter for Ms McDonald's discretion, there will be an opportunity for the three girls to make further submissions once all the information has been gathered," he said.

Last year, the girls' lawyer Gary Gotlieb said they could be seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.