Moko's killers appeal jail sentence

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa (file)
Tania Shailer and David Haerewa (file)

The lawyer for the woman convicted of killing Taupo toddler Moko Rangitoheriri has told the Court of Appeal his client's mental health played a key role in the brutal offending, and that life imprisonment is "inappropriate".

Tania Shailer, 26, and her boyfriend David Haerewa pleaded guilty to manslaughter after the three-year-old's death in August last year.

They had abused and neglected Moko for two months before he died from injuries they inflicted on him.

The pair are now appealing their 17-year jail sentences.

Shailer's lawyer Ron Mansfield said sentencing judge Sarah Katz did not give enough weight to his client's mental health.

He said Shailer was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression, and abused both alcohol and cannabis.

He also said her supposed remorse and guilty plea should be considered mitigating factors.

Mansfield asked for a reduced sentence between 10.5 and 11 years.

But the Crown called into question the mental health report prepared on Tania Shailer.

Brendan Horsley said the report contained "erroneous" and "misleading" material, and was based almost entirely on Shailer's own description of her offending.

He said the report cited Shailer's lack of money as contributing to the stress that lead to the offending, but that was a lie and she was in fact receiving regular support payments.

Mr Horsley said Shailer had the clear intention of causing harm against Moko and that her mental health "was not an excuse".

He said in Moko's final days he could not walk and his eyes were swollen, yet she chose not to take him to hospital and even tried to buy an epipen, which showed she was "not a woman operating in a dissociative state" but a woman trying to avoid responsibility.

Haerewa's lawyer Harry Edward argued his client was a "secondary party" to the offending and therefore not as culpable as Shailer.

Justice Stephen Kos said he was "surprised" to hear that, and pointed out Haerewa was the one who "tipped it over the balance" by stomping on Moko.

Mr Horsley also disputed this claim, telling the court that Haerewa was responsible for the "most degrading treatment" in "an effort to break the child", that Haerewa didn't want Moko in his home and "did everything he could to crush that child".

He said the offending showed a total lack of empathy for Moko: "This was torture - there was deliberate degradation".

Moko's mother Nicola Dally-Paki was in the public gallery at court to watch proceedings.

The court's decision will be released at a later date.