There's a good chance the pair who killed Moko Rangitoheriri could be jailed for life on Monday, despite avoiding murder charges over the three-year-old's tragic death.
Tania Shailer and David Haerewa were convicted of manslaughter after torturing Moko to death over a two-month period last year.
The case shocked the country, particularly when murder charges were dropped in favour of manslaughter. Thousands are expected to protest the decision today, particularly in Rotorua where their sentencing will take place.
"We all know the facts and we all know that over a two-month period, what happened to baby Moko was just absolutely brutal," says protest organiser Joy McKenzie.
"There's no two ways about it -- it was murder. It was an intentional murder. If they had not intended to have done it, it would not have carried on for two months. It's astounding to think they would be getting away with murder today."
Despite pleading guilty to manslaughter, Otago University law professor Mark Henaghan says the "extreme" nature of the offending could see Haerewa and Shailer jailed for life anyway.
"You've got a totally innocent, defenceless child, you've got absolutely cruel and brutal behaviour over an extended period of time, you've got no medical intervention and you've got people in positions of trust," he told Paul Henry.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson will later today explain why the charges were downgraded, having previously said there was a "lack of understanding".
Prof Henaghan says the mitigating factors will need to be "pretty strong to outweigh the absolute vileness of the offence", but they could include the guilty plea, possible mental health issues and other as-yet unheard circumstances.
There also could be limited evidence on which of the pair delivered "the fatal blows".
"Until we actually hear the full facts, it's very hard to make a judgement."
Signs outside the High Court in Auckland (Dan Jones / Newshub.)
Ms McKenzie says she will only be happy if Haerewa and Shailer get life in prison.
"I believe they deserve nothing less, being that capital punishment's not an option. I believe that all of us here today and across the country will be happy with a life sentence. Anything less I think will be an absolute abomination."
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