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The Dominion Post
November 2 2002

Wrongly jailed girls still await compo
by Glen Scanlon

Three teenage girls wrongly jailed for a crime they did not commit have still not been compensated 18 months after their plight was highlighted.

Their lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, said yesterday that he was considering suing the Government and the police because of the time it was taking for compensation to be paid.

The girls 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 Mr Gotlieb and a private investigator persuaded police to reopen their case. In October last year the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions 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 Mr Gotlieb said they deserved compensation. In August Police Commissioner Rob Robinson said he regretted the time it had taken to deal with the matter and Justice Minister Phil Goff appointed Kristy McDonald, QC, to give independent advice on whether the girls should receive compensation, and if so, how much.

Mr Gotlieb said a police investigation of the case had been completed months ago and was still sitting with the Crown Law Office.

"We can't form our claim till we get to see that report. They are worried about the report."

Mr Gotlieb said he had written to Mr Robinson on October 4 to see when the report would be available but he had not received a reply.

A police spokeswoman said yesterday that police were waiting for Crown Law's opinion.

"Until it is to hand we can't proceed further with it."

A spokesman for Mr Goff said Ms McDonald was still working on her recommendations.