Court Overturns Conviction, Reignites Mother’s Dreams of Flight Attendant Career

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Danielle Tumahai, a mother who faced a conviction for supplying methamphetamine, had her sentence set aside by the Court of Appeal following a conclusion of a miscarriage of justice. This ruling has provided Tumahai with hope for her future aspirations of becoming a flight attendant, a dream she previously thought had been shattered.

Her case is now referred back to the District Court. Here, new evidence supporting an application for a discharge without conviction on her behalf will be presented, as she prevails in her appeal against a sentence marred by miscarriage of justice.

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Her offending took root in 2015, as Court of Appeal judgment recently suggests, during an abusive relationship. Tumahai, then 23 years old and a new introduction to the world of drugs, tragically lost her two beloved children to the system. Justice Mathew Downs noted with significance this triggering event. The incarceration of her partner for a term of 6½ years closely followed, setting her off down a devastating path; swapping cannabis for methamphetamine and watching her life fall apart.

Detailing her encounters with the illicit substance in a hearing before the Court of Appeal, Tumahai clarified, “At the time of this offending, I was hanging out with a drug dealer to support my habit.” She admitted to making a profit off her supply of methamphetamine to others as somewhat of a side job.

In mid-2020, she was discovered to be dealing in methamphetamine by the law enforcement. In October 2020, she found herself charged and soon after, arrested in a hotel room drama where her male companions had departed to participate in a drug deal that went terribly awry, resulting in a homicide.

The men, Michael Filoa and Aaron Davis, stood trial for murder. While Filoa was convicted of killing Mongrel Mob member Clifford Umuhuri, Davis secured an acquittal. Tumahai played the role of a prosecution witness in the trial and believed her testimony would earn her a discharge on her dealing charges.

In an attempt at redemption, she pled guilty to the charges, took steps towards recovery, relocated to a stable and safe home and made strides in the professional world, culminating in an interview for a job with Air New Zealand.

Her conviction surfaced during the final stages of her application process, halting her career progression and ostensibly finalizing her ruined dreams. Her lawyer’s inability to be visual present in court due to a poor communication line and a lack of knowledge on the court’s side of her rehabilitative measures resulted in a sentence of 15 months of intensive supervision.

Marie Taylor-Cyphers, her appeal lawyer, argued Tumahai was a unique case. Tumahai had escaped the clutches of addiction and had much to give back to society if not for the crushing weight of her criminal record. Taylor-Cyphers strongly argued for her client to be discharged without a conviction.

Justices Downs, Whata, and Courtney concurred there had been a miscarriage of justice, noting that Tumahai’s request to apply for discharge without conviction had been thwarted through no fault of hers. Acknowledging the strong possibility of a different outcome had circumstances been otherwise, they nullified her conviction and ordered a review of the case by the District Court, taking into account new evidence including her attempts at gaining employment, her progress in rehab and the return of her children.