A Crown appeal of the discharge without conviction of Korotangi Paki should be followed up with an appeal of his co-accused, says the chief executive of Sensible Sentencing Trust.
Paki, 19, is the second-eldest son of Maori King Tuheitia and pleaded guilty to charges of theft, burglary and drink-driving. Earlier this month, his lawyer Paul Wicks, QC, argued successfully in the Auckland District Court that a conviction would impede Paki's potential succession to the Kingitanga throne. Judge Philippa Cunningham discharged him without conviction on all charges.
She imposed a special condition that Paki provide the court evidence he did not have an alcohol problem or if he did, that he had addressed it with counselling. His accomplices to the thefts, Te Ahorangi Totorewa, Hamuera Wipoha Pugh, and Ra Ngaru Smith, pleaded guilty and were sentenced in the Gisborne District Court last month.
They were ordered to pay prosecution costs of $400 each and were discharged without conviction.
Sensible Sentencing Trust made a submission to the Crown Law Office into the Paki ruling. National spokesman Garth McVicar said the case against Totorewa, Pugh and Smith should also come under scrutiny.
"It certainly follows that it should," said McVicar. "It is not something we have entered into because this was the high-profile one we wanted to see appealed."
The Crown Law Office said it believed the judge made an error in law in the case, which McVicar said was all too common.
"We are very successful in lobbying and having a number of cases appealed where there has been such an error made and I have become suspicious about whether it is an error or the ideology of the particular judge concerned," he said.
The courts needed to maintain a level playing field and McVicar said the scales seemed to be tipped in Paki's favour.
"We really don't know why they were tipped but we wanted to give it a fair hearing and see that the appeal got played out in the right forum."
The four men were students at the Toihoukura school of Maori visual arts in Gisborne when they stole surfboards from a Waikanae holiday park, and another surfboard and other items from a car parked outside a house in Wainui.
Paki had pleaded to further charges of drink-driving from October that had previously been suppressed, after he was stopped in a Gisborne street at 2.15am.
They took part in a voluntary community services plan, Mana Tangata, put in place by Totorewa's father Brad Totorewa, that included face-to-face apologies to the victims, artworks for victims and a Maori language school mentoring programme. They were also under curfew from 7pm to 7am.
The lawyers for Totorewa, Pugh and Smith did not seek discharge without conviction but Judge Geoffrey Rea made a note of the Mana Tangata programme and used his discretion to discharge them. McVicar said community work was admirable but the court should have upheld the rule of law.
"That's great but those strategies can only be additional to what the court was going to do and cannot be in place of the sentence of the court."
Brad Totorewa presented the Mana Tangata programme last week to a group of tribal leaders who met in Ngaruawahia to discuss reducing the rate of Maori offending.
Neville Baker, who runs a joint pilot programme between police and Te Runanga o Taranaki Whanui at Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt, said they shared similarities with Totorewa's plan and the key was to prevent repeat offending.
The Office of The Maori King could not be reached for comment yesterday.
- Waikato Times
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