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Makutu accused spared jail

Published: 6:08PM Friday August 14, 2009 Source: ONE News

Five people convicted of manslaughter have been spared jail after drowning a family member in a bungled exorcism.

The judge says the group were trying to do what was best for the victim and her own mother bears no ill-will.

Janet Moses died during a makutu lifting ceremony in Wainuiomata in 2007 after having water forced into her mouth and eyes.

Four of her aunts and one uncle - Aroha Wharepapa, Tanginoa Apanui, Angela Orupe, Glenys Wright and John Rawiri - were found guilty of her manslaughter following a six week trial in Wellington earlier this year.

Cheers and kisses greeted the sentences as the five killers heard they would be going home rather than prison.

The Crown wanted them jailed for the manslaughter of the young mother but says there will be no appeal. However the sentence has been a talking point around the country.

"By their actions the offenders killed a defenceless woman who was mentally unwell and had been for some time," Crown prosecutor Grant Burston said.

The Crown asked for a similar sentence to the six years given to church pastor Luke Lee who strangled a woman in an exorcism eight years ago. But Justice France said the circumstances were different and Lee's case was part of a ritual performed in relation to his followers on many occasions.

Instead the two family leaders, Rawiri and Wright, received community detention which will allow them to live at home under a curfew. Along with their co-offenders - all aunts of Moses - they were also sentenced to community service, supervision and ordered to undertake cultural education programmes.

"The accused did what they genuinely thought was right. They were motivated solely by a desire to help Miss Moses," sentencing judge Simon France said.

Afterwards, there was acceptance not anger from Janet's paternal grandfather Charlie Moses.

"Justice has been done as far as I'm's time to get on with our lives," Charlie said outside the court.

Both sides hailed the sentence, acknowledging that it has been very difficult for everybody.

"This was a truly sad and tragic death which occurred in very exceptional circumstances and I think that's been reflected in the sentence that's been handed out today," says Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy.

The sentence is now set to be judged in the court of public opinion.