R v Mika: An investigation into the Court of Appeal’s neglect of s 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002
The Court of Appeal in the case of R v Mika failed to engage with section 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002 in dismissing Mr Mika’s appeal against his sentence. In both the High Court and Court of Appeal the focus was on Mr Mika’s argument for a discount of 10 per cent to be applied to his sentence to reflect his Māori heritage and associated social disadvantages. Section 27 of the Sentencing Act would allow a court to take into account cultural information regarding Maori offenders’ backgrounds and the systemic disadvantages stemming from this. In dismissing Mika’s appeal, the Court erred in not considering the clear signals from Parliament that the judiciary were to take into account Maori offenders’ backgrounds at the sentencing stage through s 27 in an effort to fit appropriate sentences to Maori offenders. Recent developments in Canada have seen the Canadian judiciary recognise their role in the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the Canadian prison population. The New Zealand judiciary can take lessons from the willingness of the Canadian judiciary to take cultural information into account at sentencing.