Have we finished crucifying Losi Filipo? The case for 17 year olds in Youth Court



A drunk 17 year old male starts a brutal and pointless fight with 4 innocent people at 3am in the central city. His actions damage those 4 innocent lives, he’s discharged without conviction and he lacks the grace and dignity to fully apologise for his harm.

Sounds like most 17 year old males.

The science here is unflinchingly clear. Since MRI scanning of the brain in the 1980s, we’ve learned that the frontal lobes where decisions and consequences of actions are evaluated, don’t fully develop in humans until their early to mid 20s.

This is fact.

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Young people’s brains are designed and triggered to react and take risks. Denying this reality has led to a culture of mass media lynch mob rage whenever young people become violent.

This reaction is stoked by a crime porn news industry and tough on crime political rhetoric. The deeply racist nature of our Corrections system doesn’t help either. 

Compounding Filipo’s case is that he is a rugby player. We know the old  boy Court network are happy to turn a blind eye to Rugby players charged with crimes, and this makes the decision to allow Filipo to walk seem even more offensive.

It is difficult to put aside our righteous disgust at his bullying violence on that night, but that’s what we as citizens in a liberal and progressive democracy must do. We have a Judiciary who is asked to stand above the anger and make decisions on punishment that are beneficial to the wider community.

Putting a 17 year old in prison is NOT beneficial to the wider community.

The criticism thrown at Rugby NZ here seems terribly misplaced. Filipo is the perfect candidate for the provisions set up in our system to try and divert our already staggering incarceration rate from skyrocketing over 10 000.

The fact that Pākehā are twice as likely to walk without any conviction doesn’t seem to generate any of the attention that this case has.

Paul Henry was the one who expertly manipulated the anger and raised this into a media spectacle, and without the wider contextualisation of Filipo’s actions, the Lynch Mob have sated their justice lust by punishing Filipo beyond the Court.

The entire public debate around this case is a reminder of the immaturity of our culture and inability to discuss issues of any significance that require us to think beyond our emotional response.

We are a tiny country on a sugar crash who urgently needs a sleep, vegetables and no more screen time.


  1. …” The fact that Pākehā are twice as likely to walk without any conviction doesn’t seem to generate any of the attention that this case has”.
    Maybe this is the point the Judge is trying to demonstrate by using this case to highlight to his brethren?
    The discretion they have needs to show some consistency with them when passing down a judgement? The point been, with a wealthy backer, a good lawyer your chances are pretty good to get slapped with a wet bus ticket. If you’re poor, you’re judged pretty much before you get into the dock by the media & public and a predetermined judgement is made by the judge “ticking all the boxes” to send him/her down.

    Maybe some decent research into cases to gain a better insight into judgements been passed down to secure some guidelines for them ole fuckers on the bench…remove a little of their discretion?

  2. The thing is most 17 year old males do NOT maim other members of the public, bash a couple of women to add to a grand total of 4 victims, whilst on the piss, ever!!

    And to rub salt into THEIR wounds the drunken loser who does all this damage walks away because he’s a fucking Rugby player who has promise. Tough shit for the poor person who too had hopes and dreams ended by this tit.

    I hate the privilege rugby union brings in NZ and the insane hold it has over this country andany other sport.

    And Filipos walking away, laughing, from court kind of turns this so called racism the judiciary has against non whites on its head. The rich white boy who bashed the female cop must feel very hard done by.

    Perhaps he should not go to jail but to walk away from the judicial process, scott free, is a bad joke.

    That Judge got it wrong.

    • Except I don’t know (and I suspect many others) what all the details leading to the event were. I am happy to totally condemn his actions & that seem to be a view shared by all but when it comes to punishing him more information is required. The rugby player issue should be irrelevant when considering any punishment. While the court has avoided any racist behavior it is hard to escape the conclusion that some of the reaction against him is.
      Martyn has written a valid opinion & deserves better than a G McVicar response.

      • No, with respect, Martyn has got this wrong.

        “Sounds like most 17 year old males.”

        One could see this as an insult, or at least a sexist stereotyping, to the 99.9% of 17 year old males who are not thugs. (Indeed, I was once a 17 year old male myself, and, notwithstanding my incompletely matured frontal lobes at the time, I never bashed anyone.)

        For this vicious thug to get off on the basis of his football career being affected — please just reconsider what he did to these 4 people — is an utter affront. He needs to be out of circulation for the sake of decent people.

        • agreed Tom. As the mother of two sons I have to say that as 17 year olds my sons did some remarkably stupid and dangerous things. Had brushes with the law etc. However despite one of them being a rugby player and the other having a black belt in Karate neither committed violent offenses. Violence as displayed by Filipo is not acceptable or excusable fullstop!.

  3. In short Filipo hurt those peoples because he knew he would get away with it as a rugby player and it is a shameful behavior for a teenager that shows all that is wrong in new zealand where nobody ever takes responsabilities for their actions!

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