It's a person, not an ethnicty, who commits a crime

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 10:58 01/12/2013
Fabian Jessie Mika
TV3
'DISADVANTAGED': Fabian Jessie Mika sought a reduced sentence because he is Maori.

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OPINION: It's a person, not an ethnicty, who commits a crime

A couple of weeks ago now I came across the astonishing story of Mongrel Mob member Fabian Jessie Mika. His lawyer had argued in court that he should get a reduced sentence for killing a mate when he crashed a stolen car because he was Maori.

This lawyer, James Rapley, is no junior player in the criminal justice courts if his firm's online write up is anything to go by. Yet he still argued as follows: The Sentencing Act requires a person's whanau and context to be taken into account, Mika is part-Maori and Maori experienced hardship when New Zealand was settled by white people, therefore Mika should be given a lower sentence. Mika was also raised fatherless, by his aunties, and had been involved with gangs since the age of 14 or 15, more reason to feel sorry for him and give him a lesser sentence.

What utter rubbish. After all, Mr Rapley's argument boils down to a belief that Mika committed his crime because he is Maori, rather than because he chose the wrong course of action. A person, not an ethnicty, commits a crime. Therefore a person - and not his ethnicity - has to be held accountable for a crime.

Besides, whether a person is white, brown, blue or black, the victim of the crime is going to experience the same amount of harm. It follows that the victim deserves the same amount of justice regardless of the ethnicity of the offender. Besides that, the majority of Maori, whose ancestors underwent the same historic hardships, haven't chosen a life of crime and are hard-working citizens busy raising kids and doing their best for this country. They would be appalled at the actions Mika took, and the lifestyle he chose, and deeply offended that their ethnicity was being used as an excuse to get him a lower sentence.

Thank goodness the judges rejected Mr Rapley's line of argument and sent Mika off to a six year and nine month jail term for manslaughter. Yet there were those who agreed with Mr Rapley and called his argument "ahead of its time."

These people pointed out that Maori are imprisoned at far higher rates than other ethnicities, and insinuate that this proves the "system" is racist.

To my mind it proves we still have a justice system that judges people on their actions rather than their skin colour.

The great Thomas Sowell puts it beautifully. The African-American economist and writer, like Mika, grew up without a dad, and was raised by his aunts in New York's Harlem. After dropping out of high school at 17 because he couldn't pay his fees, he ended up graduating from Harvard University with the second highest grade ranking.

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As he points out: "If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today."

- Waikato

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