Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Race-based manslaughter appeal fails

Photo / File
Photo / File

A man convicted for the manslaughter of a 15-year-old boy has failed to get his sentence reduced on the grounds of his Maori heritage.

Fabian Mika was earlier this year sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch to six years and nine months' imprisonment after pleading guilty to manslaughter, being an unlicenced drunk driver who did not stop for police and failed to check if anyone was hurt after he crashed a stolen car.

According to a decision of the Court of Appeal, released today, on February 21 this year, Mika consumed a considerable amount of alcohol and smoked cannabis before driving a stolen vehicle to collect more alcohol and supplies. He had three passengers, one of whom was Ethan Takitimu-McKenzie, 15.

A police officer observed him driving too fast and signalled for him to stop but he sped off.

At one point he accelerated through a busy intersection at speeds of up to 100km/h on the wrong side of the road.

Police abandoned the chase.

Mika ignored his passengers' requests to stop and allow them to leave before he struck a road barrier, causing the vehicle to roll on its roof.

Ethan was thrown for the vehicle and killed while Mika ran away without checking whether anyone was injured.

Mika's lawyer, James Rapley, submitted to the Court of Appeal that his client should be entitled to a 10 per cent discount on his sentence to reflect his Maori heritage and thus social disadvantage.

He submitted that the sentencing judge should have taken into account the "unique systematic or background factors leading to the appearance of a Maori offender in court".

Mr Rapley emphasised the disproportionate representation of Maori in New Zealand's prison population.

The court accepted that disadvantages suffered by many Maori frequently contributed to offending, "but it does not logistically follow that a person is more likely to be at a disadvantage and to offend simply by virtue of his or her Maori heritage".

"To some, such a proposition may appear offensive," the court's decision said.

The appeal was dismissed.

- APNZ

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