James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Maori King: Family faced a 'public trial'

King Tuheitia spoke today at his coronation celebrations at Turangawaewae marae. He is flanked by his sons Whatumoana (left) and Korotangi Paki (right). Photo / Christine Cornege
King Tuheitia spoke today at his coronation celebrations at Turangawaewae marae. He is flanked by his sons Whatumoana (left) and Korotangi Paki (right). Photo / Christine Cornege

The Maori King is adamant that his son had to front up to the consequences of his actions but says his family have been unfairly subjected to their own public trial by media.

King Tuheitia has spoken at his coronation celebrations at Turangawaewae marae where he said most people thought that he used a false excuse to get his son Korotangi Paki off burglary, drink-driving and theft charges.

Last month, Korotangi Paki, 19, was let off the charges by Judge Philippa Cunningham after his defence counsel successfully argued a conviction would ruin his chances of succeeding to the throne.

King Tuheitia spoke in Maori, but in a translation of his speech provided to media, he said a false picture of his son getting off the charges was painted by "sensational and factually wrong media reports".

"They did not take into account the context, but instead turned my words to incite the anger of some in our communities. I am not a clairvoyant but it is true that I said 'it is possible that one day he may succeed me'.

I clearly said that this would be up to God Almighty and the chiefs of the land."

King Tuheitia, who spoke about his battles with cancer and diabetes, said he had tried to contain his whanau issues within his family "but recent court proceedings and the media circus that followed have made that all but impossible".

"When it came to light that Korotangi had committed crimes, my wife and I resolved to abide by the law and were firm that he face up to his mistakes.

"We love him, but we were adamant that he must face up to the consequences of his actions."

King Tuheitia said in his "extreme sadness" that it was "incumbent" for media to report the success, not just the scandals surrounding his son.

"You must also take professional responsibility for wrong and incorrect reporting. If wrong or incorrect, one must wear the consequences.

"It is time you took stock of the many who have been badgered by the media in the hopes of sensational stories.

"The media coverage is what it is, but I pray you think of your own families and friends as they may be in the same situation one day.

"My family have faced a public trial in the media, but many other families have been made to feel belittled by hounding reporters."

A couple of weeks after Mr Paki's appearance, Crown Law confirmed it would appeal against the decision to the High Court.

A hearing on August 29 has been set, as lawyers look to set a suitable date for the appeal to be heard.

Mr Paki's attendance at the hearing is not compulsory and his partner is due to give birth just days later.

Police originally opposed his discharge without conviction because they said it would send the wrong message to society, but that was not enough to persuade the judge.

Judge Cunningham said in the Auckland District Court on July 3 that while his drink-driving was moderately serious, the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction were "out of all proportion" to the offence.

However, she was concerned 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 driver's licence for eight months.

Mr 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 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.

Defence for Mr Paki, Paul Wicks QC, said the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the seriousness of the crime, because it would render him ineligible for the role of king.


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