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NZ Herald
September 5 2002

Compo for wrongly convicted girls to include counselling

McCushla Fuataha (from left), Tania Vini and Teangarua (Lucy) Akatere and their lawyer, Gary Gotlieb.

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 teenagers.

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

The state of mind that they were left in after seven months in Mt Eden Prison for a crime they did not commit meant that "we have to try to help them rebuild their lives."

He has appointed Queen's Counsel Kristy McDonald to advise him on compensation. She would determine the degree of innocence and decide what level of compensation should be paid for financial and non-financial losses they suffered.

A spokesman for Mr Goff said the money for counselling would come out of the total compensation package.

Tania Vini, Teangarua (Lucy) Akatere and McCushla Fuataha were wrongfully imprisoned in 1999 after they were convicted of an aggravated robbery in the Auckland suburb of Three Kings.

They were released 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".

Police apologised but the girls' lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, said they deserved compensation, because the time they spent in prison had changed their lives and seriously damaged their education.