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Sentencing Of Nia's Killers Sparks Anger And Despair

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nia Glassie
Nia Glassie

Wellington, Feb 5 NZPA - The sentencing of toddler Nia Glassie's killers and torturers sparked an outpouring of anger and despair inside and outside the High Court in Rotorua.

Wiremu Curtis, 19 and brother Michael Curtis, 22, were yesterday sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17-1/2 years for Nia's murder.

Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, 35, was sentenced to nine years for manslaughter, while Nia's cousin Michael Pearson, 20 and Michael Curtis' partner Oriwa Kemp, 18, were sentenced to three years and three years and four months respectively for wilful ill treatment.

A cry went out from the public gallery for the accused to "rot in hell". Michael Curtis responded with barking noises associated with the Mongrel Mob as he was led from the court.

Outside the court, an aunt of Nia's, Piki Rapana, said the sentences should have been longer.

"They should've chucked the keys away. Give them exactly the same treatment they gave to the child. That's what they should get, exactly what they gave to the poor kid," she told reporters.

It was a sentiment shared by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, whose spokesman Garth McVicar said: "This was not a one-off temper-induced killing, this was a prolonged systematic attack on a totally defenceless child. A more horrific murder would be hard to imagine."

But Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro said preventing child abuse was a much more complex problem to solve.

She said those responsible for Nia's death needed to be punished, but more deaths would occur without a greater focus on early intervention in troubled families, education and employment.

"Preparing people to parent properly, supporting people to parent and taking responsibility for the safety of children in our families, these are some of the keys to ensuring our children are safe."

Liz Kinley, chief executive of violence prevention group Jigsaw, said more children would die if people did not help when it was needed.

"She was surrounded by adults within the family and neighbourhood who knew she was being seriously harmed but didn't act to protect her.

"As a small voiceless child she depended entirely on those adults to make sure she was safe."

Three-year-old Nia died of brain injuries in Auckland's Starship Hospital in August 2007, two weeks after suffering what the Crown told the court were fatal kicks to the head by the Curtis brothers. The court also heard evidence of her being thrown onto a rotary clothesline, screaming as she was spun faster and faster until she flew off, hurting her head on the ground, and being put in tumble drier and spun around with it set to hot.

Justice Judith Potter said yesterday the Curtis brothers were "extremely cruel" in their treatment of Nia.

"This was extremely cruel conduct on a child ... These two young men were old enough to appreciate what they were doing was wrong."

She also had stern words for Kuka, who she said had seriously neglected her daughter in the days and weeks leading up to her death.

She said Kuka had failed to get medical help for her for 33 hours while she lay in a coma, which was a "gross breach of trust" and of her legal duty as a parent.

"This was very serious neglect ... She was aware Nia was being abused and chose to ignore her defenceless three-year-old child. She turned a blind eye to what was happening to Nia because she was in love with Wiremu. Nia was a defenceless child," she said.

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