The mother of a 17-year-old youth jointly charged with murdering Wellington Radio New Zealand journalist Phillip Cottrell has got her son back after his release on bail, and says she is not letting him go.
Despite facing a murder charge, Manuel Penera Robinson was released yesterday into the care of his family, who say he is incapable of killing anyone. The teenager was wrapped up in his mother's arms and whisked away to a car.
Police opposed bail when Robinson appeared in Wellington District Court. But under the Bail Act, any alleged offender aged between 17 and 20 must be freed unless it is considered desirable to keep them in custody.
Robinson's uncle, Junior Kapene, a Black Power member from Masterton, received a text from Robinson's mother moments after his release.
"She's got her son back and she's not letting him go," he said.
"That's her baby. [His arrest] was like one of her nightmares came true. It was like losing a whole part of her."
Judge Stephen Harrop cleared the court for Robinson's bail hearing and suppressed details of it, but called relatives back for his decision. Family members called out "Thank you" and "Merry Christmas, Your Honour" as they left court.
Mr Kapene, who has also spent time behind bars, spoke to Robinson while the teenager was on remand in Rimutaka Prison in an "at-risk youth unit", giving him advice on how to survive on the inside.
He told him: "Think about all the wrong and the s... that you've done in your life. Your past, reflect on your future. It's really up to them."
It's lovely that Judge Stephen Harrop has allowed Robinson to go home to his mother for Christmas. But we wonder how the family of Phillip Cottrell, the man that Robinson is alleged to have mudered feels. They won't have their loved one home for Christmas; not this year, or any other. Their wounds must still be very raw, and they probably feel as though Judge Harrop has, in his infinite wisdom, poured a truckload of salt over them.
The National government has promised to toughen bail laws, and we hope that they make good on their promise, and soon. Those accused of murder should only be able to get bail in the rarest of circumstances, and we certainly don't believe that those apply in this case.
And the Dom-Post provides a final twist of the knife for Phillip Cottrell's friends and family:
He said the family planned to celebrate last night. "We're going to have a mean feed, bro. He wouldn't be liking that three toast and two Weet-Bix [in prison].
Our thoughts, our prayers and our aroha are with the Cottrell family as they contemplate Christmas with an empty place at the table; a seat that will never be filled again. We doubt that they will be celebrating in quite the same manner that Manuel Penera Robinson's whanau celebrates his release on bail.
FOOTNOTE: We may have a musical offering later in the day; at the moment we don't feel especially festive.