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The Press
September 5 2002

Counselling covered

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

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 yesterday.

"I think the state of mind that they were left in after eight months imprisonment in Mount 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 advise him on compensation for the girls.

She would determine the degree of innocence and decide what level of compensation should be paid for losses they suffered.

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

Tania Vini, Lucy Akatere, and McCushla Fuataha were wrongfully imprisoned in 1999 after they were convicted of an aggravated robbery in Auckland.

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".