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2002 News Reports - Index

The Dominion Post
September 5 2002

Girls to get counselling

Three teenage girls convicted of a crime they did not commit would receive money for counselling as part of their total compensation, Justice Minister Phil Goff said yesterday.

He had received a preliminary application for compensation for the three teenagers.

"I have made an initial decision that payment should be available for counselling of those young women," he told a committee of MPs.

"I think the state of mind that they were left in after eight months' imprisonment in Mt Eden for a crime that they were found not to be responsible for by the police means that we have to try to help them rebuild their lives."

He has appointed Kristy McDonald, QC, to determine the degree of innocence and decide what level of compensation should be paid for financial and non-financial losses the girls suffered.

Tania Vini and Lucy Akatere, both 17, and McCushla Fuataha, 16, were wrongfully jailed in 1999 after they were convicted of an aggravated robbery in the Auckland suburb of Three Kings. 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".

The court was told that after their trial, the Crown's principal witness, a 13-year-old girl, retracted her evidence by affidavit. She had claimed she and the three older girls attacked a 16-year-old schoolgirl at Three Kings Plaza and robbed her of $10. Police apologised to the girls but their lawyer Gary Gotlieb said the girls deserved compensation as the time they spent in prison had changed their lives and seriously damaged their education. --