Taxpayers have footed a legal aid bill of almost $900,000 for the defence of Mama Hooch rapist brothers Danny and Roberto Jaz – and with an appeal on the horizon, the total could be set to rise significantly.
The gulf in public funding for the defence compared to financial compensation and assistance for the victims, has Sophie Brown - the only victim to drop her statutory name suppression in the case - feeling “disgusted” and claiming more should be done for survivors.
Sydney-born siblings Danny Jaz, 40, and Roberto Jaz, 38, were jailed in August after being convicted of 69 charges between them, including rape, sexual violation, indecent assault, stupefying, disabling, making intimate recordings of women without their knowledge or consent and supplying illicit drugs.
The brothers, described in court as prolific and predatory offenders, targeted female patrons and staff at their family bar in Christchurch, drugging and sexually assaulting them.
Danny Jaz (left) and Roberto Jaz have been convicted of rape and a raft of other charges relating to the drugging and sexual assault of women at their family bar Mama Hooch and restaurant Venuti in Christchurch. Photo / Pool
Danny Jaz was sentenced to 16½ years in prison and his brother to 17 years.
Both were ordered to serve 50 per cent of the total sentence before they are eligible for parole.
They are both appealing against their convictions and sentences.
The court heard that Roberto Jaz did not accept his convictions and did not believe he had done anything wrong.
Neither brother showed any remorse at any stage of the proceedings.
Brown said the amount of legal aid for the case made her “feel sad, quite frankly”.
“The fact that whatever a percentage of my money is going towards them fighting [the legal case]... is pretty disgusting.
“They’ve taken the rights of women away and now they are legally allowed to consume taxpayer money too.”
Brown told the Herald she had initially believed Jaz brothers’ defence was privately funded.
Although the victims were paid for their time when giving evidence during the trial and offered some counselling from a Christchurch sexual assault charity, Brown said for her the counselling did not work out.
“I appreciate what they [victim support] did for us when testifying for the trial, like going through booking travel and organising to come down to the court, they tried to make it as easy as possible.
“But I do feel like more should be done. I had questions about whether if they do go to jail will they have to pay the victims.”
Some of the survivors had to move out of the city, Brown said, or fund their own counselling.
“Where’s that financial aid? Why shouldn’t the brothers be paying for the counselling services that they’ve put on these girls.”
Victim advocate Ruth Money said while everyone was entitled to a fair defence the bill was “absolutely obscene”.
“If only the brave victim survivors could access even 10 per cent of it to help them with the therapy required after the offenders’ assaults.”
“Victims have to wait years and years and self-fund most of their help themselves - and yet predators receive these extortionate rates of support from the state.”
The basis for the Jaz brothers’ appeals has not yet been outlined and no court date has been set.
The brothers both received legal aid for two separate teams of lawyers to represent them in court as they defended the raft of charges against them.
The Herald requested details of the legal aid payments under the Official Information Act.
The brothers’ case was before the court for five years, during which time they appeared at various pretrial hearings and challenged several District Court rulings in higher jurisdictions, including name suppression decisions.
Legal aid is funded by the Ministry of Justice and can be granted to defendants who need a lawyer but cannot afford one.
To qualify for legal aid in a criminal case, a defendant has to be charged with an offence that could be punished with a prison term of six months or more.
Legal aid is also available for offenders appealing.
The Jaz brothers both applied for and were granted legal aid, qualifying under the guidelines for the service.
Until they were arrested they worked at the bar and restaurant - solely owned by their father Michael Jaz - Danny as a manager and Roberto as a chef.
He left New Zealand owing more than $235,000 to creditors after his hospitality empire collapsed due to his sons’ offending.
As of August 31 – six days after Danny and Roberto Jaz were sentenced – their lawyers had been paid a total of $896,517.21 from the legal aid coffers.
Of that, $498,214.44 was paid to lawyers acting for Danny Jaz and the remaining $398,302.77 to Roberto Jaz’s legal team.
“These are the current figures based on invoices received to date,” said Tracey Baguley, the Ministry of Justice’s group manager for national service delivery.
“Please note that the legal aid files remain open and further invoices may be received, so these amounts are subject to change.”
Baguley also provided the Herald with a breakdown of costs for the rapists.
Some work was billed on a fixed fee basis and some was paid at an hourly rate.
She explained that fixed fee amounts were paid for specific types of activity carried out by lawyers.
“Hourly rates depend on the experience level of the lawyer and the level of the case.
“In addition to payment for their work, legal aid lawyers also invoice for disbursements, which are other costs incurred in representing a legally aided person, such as travel or office costs.”
The information from the ministry revealed how legal aid was spent on each of the brothers’ cases.
Lawyers for Danny Jaz spent upward of 2700 hours working on his defence, including gathering experts, witnesses, dealing with new charges as they emerged, name suppression issues and preparing for hearings, trial and sentencing.
Other costs they claimed included:
- $10,735 on a private investigator
- $15,300 on a forensic toxicologist
- $9375 for a report from a psychiatrist
- $9953.75 on social media analysis
- $1850 on printing disclosure – the Crown case and evidence against the offender
- $15,500 on other printing.
The legal team behind Roberto Jaz spent more than 2480 hours working on his case.
They also claimed costs including:
- $5975 on experts for the trial
- $1526 on printing disclosure documents
- $800 for photocopying
Rapist brothers Danny (centre) and Roberto (right) Jaz at Mama Hooch, where they spiked drinks and sexually assaulted women. Photo / Facebook
Over the years, many high-profile offenders have received significant legal aid.
The Christchurch terrorist’s bill reached more than $392,000.
Jesse Kempson, who murdered British backpacker Grace Millane in Auckland after meeting her on a dating app, notched a total of $406,173.95 by the time his trial and appeals were finished.
The legal aid bill for David Bain’s retrial was $3.3 million.
Bain was found guilty of murdering his parents, two sisters and brother at their Dunedin home in June 1994.
He took the fight to clear his name to the Privy Council, which eventually quashed his convictions and ordered a retrial.
A second jury acquitted him on all charges.
The legal aid bill for Clayton Weatherston was around $400,000. In 2008 he stabbed former girlfriend Sophie Elliott to death in her Dunedin home, as her mother frantically tried to intervene.
Ewen Macdonald, who was charged and acquitted of murdering brother-in-law Scott Guy at his Feilding farm, had a legal aid bill that totalled $271,000.
And Mark Lundy, twice convicted of murdering his wife Christine and their daughter Amber, had a legal aid bill of more than $1.77m.
Legal aid is not the only bill the taxpayer has had to foot for Danny and Roberto Jaz.
The brothers cost the taxpayer a further $20,000 after deciding just days before a scheduled jury trial – for which more than 2000 people had been summonsed for possible juror selection – that they wanted to have their case heard by a judge alone.
The last-minute move resulted in the Ministry of Justice losing $21,650 in cancelled bookings.
Brothers Danny Jaz (left) and Roberto Jaz at sentencing. Photo / George Heard
Where to get help: If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111. If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, any time 24/7:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email [email protected]
• For more info or to web chat visit safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list. If you have been sexually assaulted, remember it's not your fault.
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