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No Appeal Over Moses Manslaughter Sentences

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Fuseworks Media
No Appeal Over Moses Manslaughter Sentences

Wellington, Aug 18 NZPA - The Crown will not appeal the sentences given to five people found guilty of manslaughter after a Maori curse-lifting ceremony went wrong.

Janet Moses, a 22-year-old mother of two, died in a small Wainuiomata flat in 2007 during the ceremony performed by more than 30 whanau members.

Ms Moses drowned as water was forced into her eyes and mouth in an attempt to flush out demons.

The five found criminally responsible for her death received community-based sentences on Friday prompting calls from some quarters that Justice Simon France had been too lenient.

Crown prosecutor Grant Burston told Radio New Zealand the guidelines for sentencing in manslaughter cases were not as strict as for other charges.

It was within the sentencing discretion available to the court to give the community sentences and therefore the Crown would not be appealing.

Prominent defence lawyer Barry Hart believed the sentences were lenient but would not comment on whether race had played a part in the five avoiding jail terms.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard, however, sparked debate with a post on Labour Party blog site Red Alert titled `It would have been prison if they weren't Maori'.

When challenged on whether a death during any religious or cultural ceremony would have been treated similarly Mr Mallard cited the conviction of Luke Lee in 2001.

A woman died during an exorcism performed by Lee. She appeared to have been strangled.

The self-styled Korean pastor was sentenced to six years' jail despite his claim he was attempting to force a demon out of the woman.

Mr Mallard, who lives in Wainuiomata, told Radio New Zealand he was surprised to receive criticism from fellow politicians for commenting on a court matter.

He said both Prime Minister John Key and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia had spoken in support of the sentences.

"Both have said it's appropriate. I don't understand why they say it's not on for me to comment but it's okay for them to support it."

Mr Hart also supported discussion of sentencings.

"It's part of the democratic process. The judge can't sit in a vacuum."


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