Far North counsellor says public support for convicted child rapist will scare victims off reporting crime

A Northland psychologist says victims of sexual abuse are being re-victimised and scared by calls for a judicial review of the conviction of a child rapist - but Hone Harawira says the man is innocent and a campaign is underway to clear his name.

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Tributes to the man who died last week have included claims of his innocence, with sexual abuse victims responding to the messages of support for the man. Source: 1 NEWS

Former Northland community leader Mangu Awaru was convicted in 2016 of sexually abusing and raping a child under 12, and then appealed the conviction, and lost.

Last month he was granted compassionate leave from prison due to his rapidly deteriorating health, and died a week later - but not before his victim's family spoke out about his release, saying he was staying at an address too close to their home.

Now, a psychologist who deals with victims of sexual crime has spoken out about the community's recent public support of Mr Awaru, despite him still being a convicted sexual offender.

An opinion piece by Hone Harawira published in the Northern Advocate advocating for the innocence of convicted child rapist Mangu Awarau.

On August 6, former Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira wrote an opinion piece published in the Northern Advocate titled "An Innocent Man", which variously praised Mr Awaru's works in the community and claimed he was innocent.

Mr Harawira wrote that no one in the wider community believed he was guilty, saying he had "poor defence" during his trial and that his "obstinance" and "lack of remorse" had helped to earn him his 11-year sentence.

"For the last 10 years, Mangu's wife and children have suffered whakamā [embarrassment] and isolation as a result of the charges," Mr Harawira wrote.

"Those gathered at Mangu's tangi supported the call to have his name cleared, and his mana and integrity to be acknowledged for the sake of his children and grandchildren."

Mr Harawira said whānau and friends of Awaru are now preparing a campaign to appeal the judicial ruling "and clear Mangu's name".

He said a recent meeting about the charges, following Awaru's death, was not about blaming the victim - in fact, "the sentiment of the hui was compassion for the victim", Mr Harawira said.

"Mangu didn't do it and the perpetrator is still loose."

Ciaran Torrington, a psychologist and trauma therapist in the Far North, told 1 NEWS public support for a convicted sexual offender could lead other victims to stay quiet about their own abuse.

Ms Torrington also said that such abuse is common in the region, saying "the Far North has such a high level of sexual abuse - to the point where you're more likely to have been abused than not".

"It's uncommon not to have that story, especially for certain areas," Ms Torrington said.

She said as soon as she saw the article by Mr Harawira, she immediate felt for the victim of the crime, who she said must be feeling distressed by such a public "slap in the face".

"This is an act that is humiliating and intimidating, and sending a really dangerous message to our community that if you stand up against the person who's raped you, that you're going to have hundreds, if not thousands of this town stand up against you," Ms Torrington said.

"This article in the paper claiming innocence is another humiliating, intimidating act, and it's saying to everybody out there - don't come forward.

"It's a tremendous slap in the face to anyone who survives sexual offenders."

Mr Harawira did not want to comment on the publication of the opinion piece.

The editor of the Northland Age defended the publication of the article, saying "it will be a sad day when people cannot publicly challenge a conviction they believe is wrong".