Discharges without conviction dropping

DISCHARGED: Korotangi Paki appears in the Auckland District Court on charges of theft and Drink Driving in July.
DISCHARGED: Korotangi Paki appears in the Auckland District Court on charges of theft and Drink Driving in July.

Less than 2 per cent of people appearing in greater Manawatu courts have been discharged without conviction in the past five years, and the number of people being let off is dropping.

Controversy has arisen around a series of recent high-profile discharges.

An 18-year-old Auckland man was discharged without conviction earlier this month and his 16-year-old brother discharged without conviction earlier this year after both admitted assaulting Stephen Dudley, who died in hospital after the assault.

Korotangi Paki - the son of the Maori king - was let off burglary, theft and drink-driving charges after his counsel successfully argued convictions would ruin his chance of one day becoming king.

Crown Law is appealing Paki's discharge without conviction.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokeswoman Ruth Money says discharges help crime statistics look better.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice, given to the Manawatu Standard under the Official Information Act, show discharges without conviction are extremely rare both nationally and in Manawatu.

Just 1.7 per cent of the 20,135 people charged with an offence in greater Manawatu from 2009 to 2013 - 337 people - were granted a discharge without conviction.

Discharges in greater Manawatu courts - Levin, Dannevirke, Palmerston North and Marton - are also on the decline, dropping from 99 in 2009 to 41 last year.

The same two trends are seen nationally. Out of the 557,264 people who were charged in all New Zealand courts from 2009 to last year, 3 per cent were discharged without conviction. The number of discharges has more than halved in that time, going from 4618 to 2199.

People are given discharges for a variety of reasons, and the decision sits with the judge.

Former Palmerston North synthetic cannabis retailer Prabhat Kumar, who ran the Paradise store near UCOL, was given a discharge without conviction on an assault charge in April.

He applied for a discharge on the basis that it would affect his ability to travel overseas to visit his sick father, gain New Zealand citizenship and cause the cancellation of his licence to sell legal highs in Palmerston North.

According to the Sentencing Act, people can be discharged when they either plead to or are found guilty of a charge, unless there is a minimum sentence to the charge. Discharges can come with strings attached, such as a judge making orders for reparation or costs.

Manawatu cricketer Bevan Small was caught driving after drinking. He avoided a conviction last year because having a criminal record could damage his prospects of playing overseas. He was disqualified from driving for six months.

Manawatu Standard