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Moko marchers rally against child abuse

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/06/2016

Hundreds have joined protests outside the country's courthouses calling for an end to downgrading charges against people accused of child abuse.

Sparked by the appalling death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri in Taupo last year, the Justice for Moko marches endorsed a call for a tougher approach for accused abusers and an end to violence against children.

In Rotorua, more than 300 people gathered on Monday despite persistent rain, where Moko's killers, Tania Shailer and David Haerewa are to be sentenced.

They were initially charged with murder but have admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter.

"Moko's case is not accidental, they are violent acts of extreme abuse on defenceless children," the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar said.

A speech, distributed by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, was to be read outside each court where protests were being held.

Abuse, neglect and maltreatment had claimed more than 200 children over the last 20 years, it claimed.

"When it comes to child abuse we can only be utterly ashamed."

The march aimed to start a journey towards ending child abuse and to demand "that anyone who abuses a child is punished and punished severely".

"And that does not mean allowing plea bargains to be part of the punishment."

Mr McVicar's text was critical of Attorney-General Chris Finlayson's "sneering" attitude to those who wanted an explanation on why the murder charge was downgraded.

"The people of New Zealand have a right to know why Moko's killers are not facing murder charges today. We also want to know Mr Finlayson, if Moko's chilling death is not murder what is?

"This arrogance and contempt from our so called leaders has played a huge part in New Zealand now having one of the highest levels of child abuse in the developed world.

"It seems saving money in a broken justice system is more important than saving lives."

Mr Finlayson will make a statement on why the charges were downgraded after the pair were sentenced.

An online petition, Stand UP NZ, has been launched calling for an immediate ban on Crown-initiated plea bargaining and that judges must approve downgrading of any charges.

The petition had attracted more than 4800 signatures on Monday morning.

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