Royal treatment undeserving

The heir to the Maori throne has escaped conviction on burglary and theft charges due to his royal pedigree, but shouldn't his behaviour have already sunk his ascension?

Korotangi Paki, 19, pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary, theft and drink driving in Auckland District Court on Thursday, but Judge Philippa Cunningham agreed with Paki's counsel that being convicted would impede his ability to accede to the throne.

He was discharged on all counts because the punishment was deemed to outweigh the offending.

Paki's lawyer Paul Wicks argued that potential successors to the throne had to have an unblemished record because of the custodial responsibilities involved as Maori king.

"The chiefs around the country are often heard to say [heirs to the throne] have to be ‘whiter than the dove'," he said.

Conviction or no conviction, Paki is no white dove. Surely he sullied his king prospects when he committing the offending. He has escaped the formal staining of his record, but not so his reputation.

And as former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels has pointed out, it would have displayed greater character and integrity on Paki's part had he asked to be treated like any other New Zealander, rather than seek protection from his royal status.

Judge Cunningham's decision has jarred with many Kiwis' sense of justice, as is often the case when discharge applications are successful.

There is a perception of special treatment due to the accused's social status or lofty career path. Paki's cultural standing only fans the flames of accusations of classism.

Last year many readers were riled that Manawatu cricketer Bevan Small escaped conviction on a drink-driving change because it would hurt his chances of playing overseas.

Such discharges are rare - well under 1 per cent of people convicted - and are usually associated with drink-driving charges, where first-time offenders can argue there has been a rare lapse in judgment.

What makes the Paki decision more vexing is that the offending included two burglaries and a theft - carried out while he was on bail for the drink-driving charge.

Tuku Morgan, a former MP and the Maori King's representative, has declared the court decision a victory for Maori, and recognition of its cultural standing.

But we would wager most of his fellow New Zealanders only see a negative precedent being set and a lack of mana demonstrated.

Manawatu Standard