8 Mar 2017

Jailed teacher claims lawyer did not advise properly

7:09 pm on 8 March 2017

A former teacher jailed for 10.5 years for sexually abusing a pupil has accused her lawyer of not properly advising her about her options before she went to trial.

Stacey Reriti has been jailed for more than 10 years on sex abuse charges

Stacey Reriti at her trial in 2015. Photo: Pool picture

Stacey Reriti was found guilty of seven sex-abuse charges in 2015 but has today appealed against her convictions and sentence.

She was deputy principal at Natone Park School in Porirua when she began an intimate relationship with the boy.

She frequently exchanged text messages with him when he was aged between 10 and 13, and on one occasion took him to a motel in Paraparaumu where they had sex.

Today Reriti told the Court of Appeal in Wellington she was mentally unwell before the High Court trial, but her lawyer, Stephen Ions did not arrange an assessment by a forensic psychiatrist.

She also received a pre-trial sentencing indication, but said Mr Ions did not explain the ramifications or give her an opportunity to speak to others about her options.

"[I wanted] to speak to my mother or doctor, because I wasn't in a frame of mind to make such a decision for myself, but that wasn't possible. I asked him in court and then asked him again when we were having a meeting later."

However she admitted under cross-examination from the Crown that she had limited recall of events leading up to the trial and there were possibly many interactions with Mr Ions which she did not remember.

Reriti also denied having sex with the boy when he was 12 and said she was still disgusted by the allegations.

Despite those denials she agreed she was now asking the Court of Appeal to give her the option of pleading guilty.

However the lawyer, Stephen Ions said he had advised Reriti of her rights after the sentencing indication hearing and he met her and read through what was on offer.

"To say she didn't read it is patently false. The suggestion I'd wave instructions in front of a client's face and say 'sign this' is unfathomable.

"I would never do that."

Mr Ions denied a suggestion from Reriti's appeal lawyer, Nicolette Levy, that he was too inexperienced to deal with such a serious sex abuse case.

In reply to a question from Justice Randerson, Mr Ions said he had done about half a dozen such cases before taking on Reriti's case and he had been lead counsel in some of them.

"I have mentors and refer to them on a regular basis.

"I was running strategy past them and it wasn't me thinking I could take a step up without going through the proper processes."

Mr Ions said usually he would make notes of all discussions with a client, but he had not in Reriti"s case and he regretted that.

Ms Levy submitted Reriti had clearly not been adequately advised over the sentencing indication.

"Her supporters weren't in any way involved in the sentencing indication, which was so critical, and the assistance a forensic psychiatrist could provide was never in the mix."

However, Crown lawyer Charlotte Brook said Ms Levy was wrong to say Mr Ions should have done something different.

"It can't be disputed that advice was given about options.

"[Reriti] made the decision to go to trial and should be made to accept the consequences of that decision."

The Court has reserved its decision.