Maori King's son avoids conviction

By Patrice Dougan

Korotangi Paki, son of the Maori King Tuheitia, leaves the Auckland District Court. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Korotangi Paki, son of the Maori King Tuheitia, leaves the Auckland District Court. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The son of Maori King Tuheitia Paki has been discharged without conviction today on charges of burglary, theft and drink driving, after his defence successfully argued a conviction would ruin his chances of succeeding to the throne.

Korotangi Paki, 19, had previously pleaded guilty to all the charges, which related to two separate incidents dating from March this year and October 2013.

His drink driving charge -- in which he blew a reading almost double the legal adult alcohol level -- was only revealed in court today after Judge Philippa Cunningham lifted a suppression order.

Defence for Paki, Paul Wicks QC, said the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the seriousness of the crime, because it would render the teen -- who will become a father in September -- ineligible for the role of king.

However, police prosecutor F. Gul Qaisrani, opposed a discharge without conviction, saying it would send the wrong message to society.

"Given the media attention this matter has already received and given the status of Mr Paki, it would send a wrong picture that because of your status you can get a favourable attitude from the justice system," he argued.

The fact Paki had been on bail for the drink driving incident when he carried out the burglary and theft was "an aggravating factor" he said, which separated him from his three co-accused.

Paki's friends -- Te Ahorangi Totorewa, 20, Hamuera Wipoha Pugh, 19, and Raa Ngaru Smith, 18 -- were all discharged without conviction in Gisborne District Court on Monday over the March burglary and theft incident.

The four had stolen surfboards from a Top Ten Holiday Park and clothes from a man's car after a drinking session in March.

However, Judge Cunningham said she viewed the drink driving as the more serious charge, and asked Mr Wicks to seek advice on whether a conviction for that crime would be viewed in the same light as a dishonesty conviction in the eyes of the Maori leaders.

After a short adjournment, he returned saying "any conviction for any criminal offending is considered unacceptable" for a potential king, who had to have an "unblemished record".

"The chiefs around the country are often heard to say they [eligible candidates] must be 'whiter than the dove'," Mr Wicks told the court.

In sentencing, Judge Cunningham said she was "driven to the conclusion" that he would lose out on being a successor if convicted.

"There's only two sons and in my view it's important that the king at the appropriate time has the widest possible choice of a successor and it's important for Mr Paki, as one of those two sons, to have the potential to be a successor in time."

While his drink driving was moderately serious, she said, the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction were "out of all proportion" to the offence.

However, she said she was concerned that alcohol had been a factor in both incidents, and made the ruling conditional on receiving a report from a medical professional clearing Paki of any alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse issues.

He was also disqualified from holding a drivers licence for eight months.

She ordered a discharge without conviction for the burglary and theft charges, in keeping with Paki's co-accused.

The judge also praised the work Paki and his friends had undertaken in terms of restorative justice and community work, as well as an on-going mentoring programme.

Paki was supported in court by his pregnant girlfriend, his father and extended family members.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 02 Sep 2014 01:17:05 Processing Time: 229ms