Maori King's son avoids conviction
The Maori King's son has succeeded in his bid to avoid drink-driving and theft convictions after his lawyer argued it was likely to bar his succession to the throne.
Korotangi Paki, 19, appeared in the Auckland District Court this afternoon charged with drink driving, two counts of burglary and one of theft.
Judge Philippa Cunningham discharged Paki without conviction on all charges but imposed a special condition that he provide the court evidence he did not have an alcohol problem or if he did, that he had addressed it with counselling.
Details of the drink-driving offence, which took place on October 20, had previously been suppressed, but today Judge Cunningham revealed he had been stopped on a Gisborne street at 2.15am.
Breath testing gave a reading of 761. The current limit for drivers under the age of 20 is zero.
The burglaries and theft happened in March while he was on bail and the judge noted it had also occurred after a night of drinking.
Paki, supported in court by his heavily pregnant girlfriend, previously pleaded guilty to all charges arising from the theft of two surfboards from Waikanae Motor Camp and items from a car.
His accomplices to the thefts, Te Ahorangi Totorewa, 20; Hamuera Wipoha Pugh, 19; and Raa Ngaru Smith, were sentenced in the Gisborne District Court last week.
The trio was ordered to each pay prosecution costs of $400 and were discharged without conviction.
Paki also applied for a discharge without conviction today.
His lawyer Paul Wicks QC told the court a conviction would impede his ability to accede to the throne.
Potential successors had to have an unblemished record because of the custodial responsibilities involved as King.
"The chiefs around the country are often heard to say [heirs to the throne] have to be 'whiter than the dove'," Wicks said.
Paki's age and significant steps taken to show remorse through restorative justice processes, voluntary community work and completion of the Right Path programme lowered the severity of the offences, Wicks said.
However, police prosecutor Gul Qaisrani argued a discharge without conviction would set a negative precedent, describing Paki's attitude during the time of the second offences as "reckless".
"He knew at the time what would be the consequences and what would be the implications of the conviction."
Therefore he should be liable for the punishment, he said.
Outside court Paki's representative and former MP Tuku Morgan said it was a "major turning point in his life".
"He's an expectant father and you can see he's brought shame upon his father, his family and Tainui," Morgan said.
He heralded the court's decision as a victory for Maori.
"I think that is a recognition of the uniqueness of this country. Maori tikanga, Maori culture has been recognised today by a very senior court."
If Judge Cunningham's condition is met in two weeks, the discharge without conviction will be granted.
However, Students Against Driving Drunk chief executive Anna Braidwood said she believed the judge's decision was the wrong one.
"It's one law for every New Zealander so the consequences should be fair and balanced. In this guy's case he was way above the adult limit and he could have caused some serious serious harm.
"Nothing he does takes back the decision he has made."
Braidwood said it was important to send the right message about consequences to young people.
"When we have cases like this - and it's not the only one - it's sending a really unbalanced message. I think it's always important that people take ownership. Part of that is accepting the guilt."