20 Oct 2011

Teenage killer's sentence reduced

3:14 pm on 20 October 2011

A teenage girl sentenced to serve at least 17 years for her role in the murder of a retired teacher has had her sentence reduced by four years by the Court of Appeal.

Courtney Pauline Churchward, then aged 17, and her cousin Lori-Lea Waiora Te Wini, 14, were sentenced in 2009 for bashing 79-year-old John Rowe to death at his home in Opotiki.

Churchward's sentence was lowered on appeal after new psychological reports were presented to the court.

Reports by two psychologists found that Churchward's unstable upbringing and a violent relationship had resulted in low self-esteem and a desire to fit in with her peers.

Clinical psychologist Renate Bellve-Wack said that those factors, as well as an addiction to drugs, lowered Churchwood's threshold for committing violence.

The Court of Appeal ruling issued on Wednesday said the long sentence could have a crushing effect on Churchward.

It said Churchward had a promising future, despite the terrible crime she had committed.

The court found her sentence manifestly excessive and lowered it to a 13-year non-parole period.