Tolley: Govt intervention couldn't stop Moko's abuse

Moko Rangitoheriri (Supplied)
Moko Rangitoheriri (Supplied)

No laws or resources the Government could put in place would stop someone from thinking it was okay to abuse children, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says.

Ms Tolley was questioned today about the death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri last year at the hands of those meant to be caring for him.

David Haerewa and Tania Shailer have pleaded guilty to his manslaughter after accepting a deal to drop the original charge of murder.

Moko endured weeks of violent abuse, the result of which made it difficult for his mother Nicola Dally-Paki to recognise her son in the morgue.

Questions have been raised about what Child, Youth and Family (CYF) could have done to stop the death and whether it was right for the deal to have been struck in the first place.

Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills didn't think CYF could have done much to prevent Moko's death.

Today, Ms Tolley, who was at the pre-Budget announcement for sexual violence services, said those responsible for Moko's death had already accepted responsibility.

"We have a court process where two people put their hands up to torturing a three-year-old which resulted in his death. That's the truth.  Those people are the two people responsible for Moko's death.

"It's an absolute tragedy and your heart goes out to all the family. It would be the worst nightmare for a family to lose a child in that way," she said.

She said CYF would go to a house if they'd had a report of concern, but that hadn't been made in this case.

"There has been discussion of whether the woman was able to cope, but no one picked up the phone at any stage and said they felt those children were unsafe -- that is a report of concern. No one did that; nobody has put their hand up and said they did that."

When asked whether it would take more money or resources for CYF to fix things, she replied: "What, you're going to put people into houses? Live with people? Really, none of that is going to make a difference if people do not understand violence is not acceptable in any circumstances."

"It is illegal, you can make all the laws, you can have all the social workers, the dedicated people throughout New Zealand, but it comes down to the individual."

She said while CYF is undergoing a major overhaul, it still wouldn't stop someone "being cruel and torturing a child if they think that's okay".

Questioned more about when she was briefed on Moko's case, she said she didn't have the exact date before changing the subject.

"I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about sexual violence."

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said any lessons from Moko's death would be taken on board.

He still had confidence in CYF saying they'd "acted appropriately".

Labour's children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern believes the manslaughter deal should not have been struck, with justice best served by a jury.

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