The widespread condemnation of Koritangi Paki’s discharge without conviction (DWC) for burglary, theft and drink driving is wholly justified in my view. But was it special treatment that allowed him to escape conviction? Khylee Quince points out that:
“A judge is required to do justice to do [two] things. One to look at the circumstances of the offending and two to look at the circumstances of the offender”
Quince went on further to say that the decision of the Judge is not unusual but instead that:
“His [Paki’s] particular position is unusual but looking to someone’s future life and career prospects, those are always things that a judge is able to and appropriately does take account”
In my view, and the view of many others, the Judge has overweighted Paki’s future prospects to be ‘Māori King’ in making her decision. The role of Māori King is an artificial construction held onto to retain the privileges that flow from the title in the rohe. Outside it for many Māori, the title has no weight. It is meaningless.
As Dover Samuels argued on RadioLive just because you whakapapa to royalty, this should not be an excuse to escape conviction for criminal offending.
Going back to the question of special treatment, as Quince says the Judge has a discretion in determining when to DWC and is required to take into account a range of factors including future prospects. However, I think the judge was wrong to ascribe the weight she did to Paki’s prospects as future king and in this sense there was special treatment. But I want to reiterate that this is not ‘Māori Privilege’ as some commentators suggest, because it only applies to those who are in line to become ‘king’ of the kingitanga movement and as I argued above, many Māori, particularly those outside the rohe, do not see the Māori King as having cultural significance. Many would say he is not my king. The Māori King is not the king of all Māori.
That his prospects as king were even raised as a defence is disturbing to say the least. I mean, if the kingitanga movement think simply avoiding conviction makes Paki a more suitable heir to the throne at some later date, then something is wrong. Avoiding conviction does not minimise, eradicate or even justify his offending behaviour. He escapes (largely) the legal consequences but will still wear the immorality of his actions.
Annette Sykes told Newstalk ZB that, Paki didn’t get off scot-free because there was a:
“Reparation requirement and of course he brought disrepute and shame to the people of Tainui”
I accept that Paki did receive some level of punishment. But further to Sykes comments, Paki’s case didn’t just bring Tainui into disrepute. The defence he invoked brought Māori into disrepute by using his rohe based privilege to exempt him from criminal conviction exacerbated by kingitanga representatives passing it off as a win for Māori culture and tikanga Māori. This is a clear and direct manipulation of the justice system to allow a person in a privileged position to avoid heavier legal consequences for his actions and in my mind this exploited Māori culture and tikanga Māori on the whole.