"If they were Māori, they'd be going straight to jail," says MP

By Ripeka Timutimu

Four Pākehā teenagers were sentenced to community service and fined for stealing 80k worth of goods in Northland. It has sparked online debate on the fairness of the sentence with some believing the punishment would have been more severe if the perpetrators were Māori.

These four teenagers won't be seeing the inside of a jail cell for burglary.

MP Marama Fox says Māori wouldn't have been so lucky.

“If they were Māori, they'd be going straight to jail. That is the challenge before us.”

The teens were given a period of home detention and fined for stealing $80,000 worth of goods in the North.

Fox posed the question, “How do we fix the justice system, so that all people are treated the same, despite being Māori or Pākehā, or another ethnicity.”

The judge, in this case, Judge Harvey said the boys were “extraordinarily lucky" because if it was not for the combination of support from their families and lawyers they would all be going to jail.

Law academic Mamari Stephens says it's different for some Māori, “The judge will ask where the family is? Will they support that person? What's the use of giving them community service when they might go and commit another crime?”

Online debate has compared the case of Korotangi Paki, the son of Kingi Tuheitia, who escaped burglary charges due to his status in Māoridom.

Fox wants everyone to be equal under eyes of the law.

“It's up to the government to clean itself up. We need to research more to find out where the problems are in our justice system and then find solutions to those problems.”

The Sensible Sentencing Trust says on face value the sentence of the four received may not deter others from committing that crime, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen.