Son of the Maori King appeared before a judge who takes booze and career prospects into account

If you can pitch a defence about how your career will be damaged, should you fall foul of the law, then try to arrange for Judge Philippa Cunningham to hear your case.

Appropriate expressions of remorse will go down well with her, too.

And she may well look kindly on you if she believes an addiction to booze or whatever has been your downfall and you are willing to be weaned off it.

We can only imagine what sentence she would have dished up had she handled the Rolf Harris case, because his career is over and a conviction will not bugger up his employment prospects.

But back in his younger days it’s reasonable to suppose he would have been given a break in Judge Cunningham’s court – provided he was remorseful, which he hasn’t been so far.

His name may well have been suppressed, too.


This surmise is made on the strength of a case a few years ago involving a comedian who admitted performing an indecent act on his four-year-old daughter.

He was discharged without conviction and his name was suppressed.

Here’s one account of what happened:

Child protection agency Barnardos is concerned that a precedent will be set by the discharge without conviction of a comedian who admitted performing an indecent act on his four-year-old daughter.

The man, who has permanent name suppression, pleaded guilty in March to committing an indecent act against a child. He appeared in the Auckland District Court on Friday for sentencing but Judge Philippa Cunningham discharged him without conviction.

The incident occurred in 2009, following a Christmas party held in central Auckland and after the man had been on a 12 hour drinking binge.

In sentencing, Judge Cunningham noted the event was not premeditated and that the man was extremely remorseful.

She said he had already had his income halved by the incident and any conviction would have an effect on his ability to obtain any future work.

Barnardos Chief Executive Murray Edridge said this suggested a person’s ability to get work in the future, and their ability to make people laugh, is more important than a child’s safety.

“This man has come home drunk, committed an unacceptable sexual act on his daughter and has admitted doing so. Unbelievably, he faces no legal consequences for his actions. A discharge without conviction means there will be no record of his crime.”

The man had previously been charged with unlawful sexual connection and escaped conviction in that case too, Edridge said.

Another case handled by Judge Cunningham involved a fellow who stole the life savings of a little old lady and left her with broken bones in the attack on her.

You can brush up on the case in a Stuff report here.

Darren Murphy Fidow was 18 years old when he and a mate targeted a pensioner at an Auckland shopping mall.

The slightly built 82 year old woman had just left a hair salon and was crossing the car park with $600 – which she said was her life’s savings – in her handbag.

Fidow pushed her to the ground, grabbing at her handbag. The plucky pensioner held on to the bag but Fidow ripped it away and ran off.

She suffered a broken hip that required surgery, a broken wrist, bleeding on the side of her nose and bruising to her face. She was in hospital for approximately one month, requiring re-constructive surgery on her wrist and hip.

In a victim impact statement the pensioner described the attack as having “substantial and permanent” effects – she has lost her independence and is unable to undertake tasks with the energy she had before.

At the time of the robbery Fidow was on bail for burglary and was bailed again. He then committed another burglary.

He sounds like a very disagreeable fellow with strong anti-social inclinations.

He should be banged up for a few years – eh?


Judge Cunningham sentenced him to 11 months’ home detention.

She gave him discounts for pleading guilty, his youth and his treatment for addiction.

The Solicitor-General appealed, saying the sentence was “manifestly inadequate” and the Court of Appeal quashed the home detention. It jailed the bugger for almost two years.

The appeal court said: “The Judge [Cunningham] had formed the view that Mr Fidow’s addiction to alcohol was a significant contributing factor in his offending, and therefore that treatment for the addiction was critical in minimising the risk of re-offending.”

She also accepted that Fidow was remorseful after he handed up a handwritten letter saying he was seeking help “to change my bad greedy ways not only for myself but also for my family”.

However Fidow had refused to be involved in a restorative justice process.

The Appeal court agreed Fidow’s age and remorse should be taken into account. But is said jail was still appropriate.

Judge Cunningham is back in the news as the judge who has given the wayward son of the Maori king a break.

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.

The police prosecutor opposed a discharge without conviction, saying it would send the wrong message to society.

But the judge was sympathetic to defence concerns about Paki’s future career prospects.

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.

Fair to say, Paki’s fellow felons had all been 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.

Judge Cunningham said she viewed the drink driving as the more serious charge.

She asked defence counsel to seek advice on whether a conviction on the drunking driving rap would be viewed in the same light as a dishonesty conviction in the eyes of 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.

This seemed to do the trick.

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.

But she was concerned that booze had been a factor in both incidents. Her ruling was conditional on her 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 on that rap.

So did this member of Maori royalty get special treatment?

Well, yes.

We have this on the authority of a spokesman for Maori King Tuheitia’s son.

The spokesman was none other than Tukuroirangi Morgan, who Alf fondly remembers from his days as an MP. He told reporters the judge’s decision recognises the uniqueness of the Maori King movement and it was the right one.

“Today is about reigniting the uniqueness of Maori. More than that, a recognition of what is compellingly different about the Maori King movement.”

So we have yet another example of the wonderful way we are willing to regard our indigenous persons as special, and furthermore we can see that while all indigenous persons are special, some are more special than others.

One Response to Son of the Maori King appeared before a judge who takes booze and career prospects into account

  1. Barry says:

    I’d like this judge off my payroll NOW.

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