Should the Maori King's son have been discharged without conviction on a drink driving charge?
The furore over the Maori King’s son escaping a conviction has been compounded by revelations he used racist slurs on a Facebook page.
A public backlash was already well under way after King Tuheitia’s second son, Korotangi Paki, 19, received a conditional discharge when he appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday on charges of drink-driving, burglary and theft.
But it has since emerged that Paki posted racist comments on his Facebook page in December.
Radio Live posted images today from his Facebook page where he used the Nazi salute phrase ‘sieg heil’ and another gang-related slogan, and made racist slurs about a group of Asians.
A spokesman for the King said he apologised ‘‘unreservedly for any offence the comments have caused’’.
‘‘King Tuheitia does not condone racism in any shape or form and the ill-advised use of gang-related slogans can perhaps best be put down to the ignorance of youth,’’ the spokesman said.
Paki was not a gang member or associated with gangs, he said.
The backlash over yesterday’s sentencing included two Facebook pages calling for a conviction and ‘‘fair justice’’ to be served on Paki.
A leading law expert also dubbed the court sentence undemocratic, while former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said the judge involved had got it wrong.
Paki appeared for sentence on drink-driving, two counts of burglary and one of theft.
According to his lawyer, Paul Wicks, QC, Paki could succeed his ailing father to the Maori throne only with a clean record.
Despite the charges coming from two separate incidents, the last three while he was on bail, Judge Philippa Cunningham granted him a conditional discharge without conviction.
And the judge ruled the impact of a conviction would exceed the gravity of the offending.
If the teen can provide the court evidence he has no alcohol problem or, if he does, that he is addressing it with counselling, he will emerge from the court case with an unblemished record - legally at least.
But there was certainly a black mark against his name in the eyes of some.
Samuels today told Radio New Zealand the judge's decision should not have taken into account Paki's royal status.
"I think the judge is absolutely suffering from some sort of cultural hypnosis," he said.
"I think she's been persuaded and I think she's wrong, and to me I don't think most New Zealanders would support that."
His comments were echoed by the public online. Hours after sentencing a Facebook group had been set up called "Fair punishment for Maori King's son: Korotangi Paki".
The page's creator demanded "nothing but justice".
"What kind of message does this send to the people of this country, Maori or otherwise? How can this man take leadership knowing he got away with it?
"Can one commit crimes, only to get bailed out by a parent who has power and resources?"
Hours later a similar page was created - "Convict Korotangi Paki" - where even Maori put the boot in.
"You give Maoris a bad name. Man up and take it on the chin you pu**y hiding behind your family. BLOODY WEAK ALRIGHT!" wrote Manu Karena.
Outside court yesterday, the royal family's representative, Tuku Morgan, said the judge's decision had been a victory for Maori and recognition of their unique culture.
"[Paki] has the right as one of two sons to be included in the process to inherit or to take the place of his father," Morgan said.
"The judge has recognised a very important and compelling cultural difference; that he is entwined in a succession process that one day will give rise to a new head of the kingdom, and his opportunity should not be in any way shape or form minimised or compromised."
But changes to King Tuheitia's Wikipedia page showed there were others who disagreed.
"Korotangi and his lawyer exploited their Maori status, supposed royal status and Maori culture to pull off a coup and trick the judge to discharge their sad excuse for a Maori prince without conviction," it said.
Since the sentencing, the page had been edited several times.
LEGAL EXPERT UNIMPRESSED
Legal expert Bill Hodge said he was not impressed with the decision, calling it undemocratic.
The University of Auckland law professor and author of Criminal Procedure in New Zealand said the argument that the conviction might prevent Korotangi Paki from becoming the Maori King was not fair.
"That is up to the Maori authorities in question, not a matter of New Zealand law and to that extent is one law for common people and another law for royalty," Hodge said.
"That is not equal opportunity and it is not democratic."
He could understand the decision if it was Paki's first and only mistake but there were multiple charges, Hodge said.
"My concern is while there may be some good arguments; the fact that he is future royalty is not a fair argument, in my view."