14 Nov 2012

'JJ' jury brings in guilty verdict

7:10 pm on 14 November 2012

A High Court jury has found the man accused of killing a two-year-old Auckland boy guilty of murder.

Joel Loffley was charged with murdering James Lawrence, known as JJ, at their Orakei home exactly a year ago.

The toddler died from severe blunt trauma to his stomach which split some of his organs.

The jurors reached their verdict on Wednesday afternoon after returning to the courtroom to ask the judge a question relating to Loffley's intent.

Justice Keane told them they had to decide what Loffley's intent was just before, and at the time, the injury was inflicted.

It took the jurors seven hours over two days to reach their verdict.

Family happy, and sad

JJ's uncle, Richard Lawrence, says the family has mixed emotions.

Mr Lawrence says they're happy the jury didn't take too long to deliver its verdict, but sad for all the families involved.

He says the family is looking forward to going back up north where JJ is buried so they can start healing.

A memorial service for the boy is planned for Monday.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Hooper, says police are pleased Loffley has been held accountable for what he did.

He says the trial has been very difficult for JJ's whanau, and perhaps the family can start o;f move on now it's over.

Detective Senior Sergeant Hooper says he hopes the verdict will act as a deterrent as well as encourage people to come forward to report abuse.

Loffley continues to maintain innocence

Loffley's lawyer, Roger Chambers, says his client maintains his innocence and is bitterly disappointed by the verdict.

"He knew it would be a close-run thing. He's always maintained his innocence, and that is still his view but he's in a position where he's got to accept the verdict of the jury. He can't complain about it. I'll talk to him and then we will see what we can do in the future."

Loffley will be sentenced next February.

CYF contacted a month before death

In a statement, Child, Youth and Family says JJ's aunt Katie Lawrence contacted it just over a month before his death, raising concerns about his supervision and possible neglect.

This report did not indicate JJ was at immediate risk of harm and there had been no previous reports made about the toddler.

The department says while it was told that the toddler had suffered a broken arm on two occasions, doctors said the explanations given were consistent with the injuries.

A social worker also visited the home several times over the next four weeks, but could not find JJ or his mother.

The department says the adults in the home were lying to agencies about people's identities, the relationships between people in the house, and who was living there.