Moko's killer's lawyer says 'social agencies are ill equipped'

Moko's killer's lawyer says 'social agencies are ill equipped'

The lawyer for one of Moko Rangitoheriri's killers warns we'll keep seeing similar cases until we tackle child poverty properly.

Ron Mansfield says social agencies failed to see the warning signs in the lead up to the three-year-old's death at the hands of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa.

He says the horrific offending is symptomatic of a wider problem with poverty and mental illness and believes social agencies are failing to recognise the warning signs.

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa were yesterday sentenced to 17 years behind bars, but debate around the case continues to rage on.

Mr Mansfield says there's no excuse for the brutal bashing his client gave three-year-old Moko, but believes bigger issues were at play.

"Poverty was one, mental illness was the other -- they were unable to cope with six children, and there was expressions by the defendants about that inability, and it wasn't really listened to," he says.

Mr Mansfield says the sad reality is abuse rates go up where poverty is rife and believes social agencies like Child, Youth and Family (CYF) are ill-equipped to deal with it.

He says until more money and resources are pumped into the system we'll continue to see cases like Moko's.

"All the risk factors were present in this household and should have led in my view to at least an investigation."

CYF became involved when Tania Shailer raised concerns Moko and his siblings wouldn't be safe with their mother and says that's why it didn't focus on Shailer's care of the children.

CYF admits there was no home visit to check on Moko, but is adamant it didn't let his family down.

Today the debate around so-called plea bargaining continued, with calls for a re-jig of our legal system.

"A degree of murder charge is one way in which we can have a more nuanced approach -- and what I mean by that is it gives more weapons in the armoury of police and the crown solicitor to charge more appropriately," says legal expert professor Chris Gallavin.

"My view is that I will take advice of my officials as to whether they think there's a systemic issue," says Minister of Justice Amy Adams.

"If there is we'll address it but we have to understand that these are frame works that have been in place for many years and it takes more than a single case to suggest there may be something wrong."

The Government says it'll launch a review once the time period for any appeal has lapsed.