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Waitara tragedy a result of flawed youth justice

Tuesday 2nd May 2000
Stephen Franks
Media Release -- Justice

Tragedies like the Waitara shooting may be directly attributable to a history of flawed tolerance,” said ACT justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

“Young criminals are misled into believing the law can not touch them. Their first contact with the law shows that it doesn’t mean what it says. This leaves the police snookered. They must either back off or challenge lawlessness and risk ending in terrible confrontation”

A report Doing too Much and achieving too little commissioned by the Invercargill Safer Communities Council shows that young offenders get the wrong message.

“This report should spur a long overdue review of youth justice policy. “The report highlights just how out of touch this Government is with young offenders, and confirmed what ordinary New Zealanders have always known; the youth justice system is too easy.

The report cites the views of several young offenders in relation to the success of Family Group Conferences. Comments made included, “I don’t do their plans, its stupid and it teaches me nothing,… I still have community hours to do, I’ve done four but I’m not going to do the rest,.. ..the first one worked for a while but I reckon I don’t reckon they works if you do lots.” Family group conferences were also seen as an easy way of avoiding court.

“A number of young offenders thought FGC’s were valuable, but were never made to complete their community hours – basically it was their decision whether to fulfil the sentence. Should this be considered punishment?”

The report also discovered that the types of offences committed by youths paralleled the offending by adult criminals.

“This is a clear signal that we must stop youth offending before it is too late. “This lawlessness also creates a public perception that the police can not defend you in your own home. The results are demands for the self help justice and savage penalties that are not necessary in societies respectful of the law.

“Youth penalties must send the simple message that crime does not pay. At present young offenders consider the law of the street tougher than the youth justice system. As long as this contempt continues we won’t turn the tide on youth offending.” said Mr Franks.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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