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Newstalk ZB
October 10 2006; 13:57

Lawyer "disgusted" by Govt actions

The lawyer for three young Auckland women awarded compensation for wrongful convictions is furious at how long the process has taken.

Tania Vini, Lucy Akatere and McCushla Fuataha were jailed in 1999 for the aggravated robbery of a schoolgirl in Mt Roskill. They were freed on appeal after spending seven months in prison, after two principal witnesses retracted their testimony.

Today, they have received between $162,000 and $176,000 each, although they do not understand why they have been given differing totals.

Their lawyer Gary Gotleib is disgusted, saying the government has taken seven months to pay up, after settling the dispute. He points out the three young women have lost their youth, and schooling, and been locked up, all through no fault of their own.

Mr Gotleib told Newstalk ZB he accepted the Government's proposal in March of this year but it has taken nearly seven months for the Government to pay up. He says the offer they agreed to accept was originally made in March of 2003, when three senior Queen's Counsels said it was totally inadequate, and court proceedings were taken.

He says although the High Court did not support his clients' case for compensation of a million dollars, he believed they had grounds for appeal. However, the three women said they had had enough and did not want to proceed any further.

Mr Gotleib says it is also wrong that the Government has not paid any interest on the compensation for the time it has taken them to pay up.

He believes one reason why the case has been handled so badly by the Government, is because the trio are all Polynesian girls from South Auckland. He points out that if the case had involved a businessman, it would probably have been a different story altogether.

Mr Gotleib says this case is a sign of a deeper problem in the system, where Ministers of Justice, who are not lawyers, are being "rolled over" by their more expert staff in the Ministry.